Saturday, April 30, 2016

Morbid Anatomy London Based Events This May: Morbid Anatomy Salon and One Day Anatomical Venus Symposium

The Morbid Anatomy Salon at London's Wellcome Collection is sadly now fully booked; apologies it sold out so fast! The good news is the event will be filmed and you'll be available to watch online soon after the live event. Stay tuned for more.

Those who were unable to get tickets for this event might be interested in our other upcoming event in London, a one day symposium in honor of our new book on The Anatomical Venus on May 15th. It features a few of the same speakers, such as Chiara Ambrosio, Ross MacFarlane, and Morbid Anatomy founder and museum creative director Joanna Ebenstein. Other presenters include Strange Attractor's Mark Pilkington, wax sculptor and Morbid Anatomist at Large Eleanor Crook, Anatomist in residence Emily Evans, historian of medicine James Kennaway, John Troyer of the Centre for Death and Society, magic lanternist Mervyn Heard, Stephen Coates of The Real Tuesday Weld, and much more.

Since their creation, The Anatomical Venus--an18th century life-sized wax woman created to teach a general public about anatomy--have seduced, intrigued and amazed; this symposium will also attempt to explore the ways in which, to the contemporary eye, they also confound, flickering on the edges of medicine and magic, votive and vernacular, fetish and fine art.

Full line up follows; ticket link should be added by Monday!
TIME: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
OFFSITE AT London's Horse Hospital
Please join Morbid Anatomy and Strange Attractor as we celebrate the release of the new book “The Anatomical Venus” (published by Thames and Hudson in the UK and DAP in the US), which explores the strange and fascinating history of seductive female anatomical wax models, which peaked in fashion in the 19th century. Filled with never before published images from around the world, and documented in intricate detail, the book is the result of Morbid Anatomy founder Joanna Ebenstein’s global, ten-year photographic quest. Since their creation, these wax women have seduced, intrigued and amazed; this symposium will also attempt to explore the ways in which, to the contemporary eye, they also confound, flickering on the edges of medicine and magic, votive and vernacular, fetish and fine art.
10:00 AM: Joanna Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy, Author of “The Anatomical Venus: “An Enlightenment-era St Teresa Ravished by Communion with the Invisible Forces of Science: A Brief Introduction to The Anatomical Venus

10:15: Keynote: Eleanor Crook, Wax Sculptor: The Deliquescent Self: Wax, Anatomies and the Fear of Melting

10:45-12:45: Panel One: Faith, Magic, Theology & The Body: Moderated by Ross MacFarlane, Wellcome Collection
  • Chiara Ambrosio, Filmmaker: My Grandfather the Spirit Doctor & Me: Listening to Bones and the Voices in the Ether
  • Emily Evans, Artist and Anatomist: The Use of Human Hair in Art and the Divine
  • William Maclehose, Historian of Religion and Medicine, UCL: Sleeping with the Divine: Incubation and Dream Healing in the Premodern World
  • Ross MacFarlane, Research Engagement Office, Wellcome Library: An Intimate Collection? Tracing Emotions in Edward Lovett’s Amulets and Charms
  • James Kennaway, Historian of Medicine, Newcastle: The Role of Music in Mesmerism
12:45-1:45: Lunch Break

1:45-3:45: Panel 2: Natural and Supernatural: Moderated by Mark Pilkington, Strange Attractor Press
  • Mark Pilkington, Strange Attractor Press: Echoes of Afterlife: Comparing Textual and Medical Models of Post-Mortem Existence
  • Christopher Josiffe, Cataloguer at Senate House Library and Writer: Gef! The Strange Tale of An Extra Special Talking Mongoose
  • Jonathan Allen. Artist, Writer and Educator: The Tarot of Austin Osman Spare
  • Kirsten Norrie, Artist, Writer, Performer: Second Sight in Highland Tradition
3:45-5:00: Panel 3: Wax: Moderated by Eleanor Crook, Wax Sculptor
  • Eleanor Crook: Talk and Wax Modeling Demonstration
  • Nathalie Latour, Wax Conservator, Paris: André Pierre Pinson, the Wax Modeler of the French Revolution
5:00 – 7:00 Panel 4: Morbid Amusements: Moderated by John Troyer, Centre for Death and Society
  • John Troyer, Director of the Centre for Death and Society, Bath: That’s Not Funny!: Morbidly Amusing Necrophilia Law
  • Lili Sarnyai, University of London, Graduate Student: Sleeping Beauties
  • Professor Mervyn Heard, performer, scholar and author of Phantasmagoria: The Secret Life of the Magic Lantern: Phantasmagoria: Ghost-raising for Fun and Profit in the 18th Century
  • Steven Coates, Musician (The Real Tuesday Weld) and Author: Xray Audio: Soviet Music on the Bone
Image: Anatomical Venuses created by the workshop at La Specola, Florence, Josephinum Museum, Vienna, Austria. Photo by Joanna Ebenstein

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Public Dissections, Frederik Ruysch and the Theatrum Anatomicum: Touring the Waag at Amsterdam Anatomy Weekend

As part of our recent Amsterdam Anatomy Weekend, The Vrolik Museum's Lisa Kuiper gave a fascinating tour of The Waag (above), which is not only the oldest building in Amsterdam (dating back to 1488) but also housed the anatomical theatre where public dissections were performed under the hand of Frederik Ruysch and others from 1691 until the early 19th century. The content of the following post is primarily sourced from Lisa's excellent tour.

The Waag, Kuiper explained, began its life as a city gate; called St Anthony’s Port, it was locked each evening at 10 pm. It went on to become a weighing house (Waag in Dutch) where goods would be weighed before entering the city to evaluate the appropriate taxes before they went to market. From 1588 on, it also served as the home to the city's guilds, including that of the Surgeons; they were given the top space, a testament to thier importance. The Surgeons' Guild built a "Theatrum Anatomicum," or Anatomical Theatre, which could be entered through this door:

Here, they conducted dissections, usually on the bodies of executed criminals; in this way their location was convenient, because criminals were also executed here, as seen in this artwork from 1812:

Guillotine on the Nieuwmarkt, Gerrit Lamberts , 1812.
Via Amsterdam Municipal Archives.
In 1690, neighbors of the Waag sent a letter to the Surgeon's Guild, requesting that the dissections be opened to the curious public; they did so the following year, under the persuasion of famed embalmer, anatomist and so called "artist of death" Frederik Ruysch who also conducted the first dissections. Below you can see him dissecting a child attached to the placenta; more on the man and his work below.

Jan van Neck, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Frederick Ruysch, 1683.
Amsterdams Historisch Museum
Dissections could take as long as seven days to complete, with admission prices varying based on proximity to the body and the day you wished to attend, with earlier dates being more expensive and smelling less vile. The Waag also functioned--as did the Leiden anatomical theatre--as sort of museum, open on Christmas and special fair and market days. Here, one could see a cat with four hind legs, a skeleton of a child playing violin along with other skeletons, the preserved skins of dissected criminals, a taxidermied lion and lioness, and more. At least some of the preparations were made by Frederik Ruysch himself.

Until the 1820's, as explained in a lecture by Vrolik Director Laurens de Rooy, anatomists would dress skeletons and put them in the windows during the the annual market fair, presumably to advertise the contents of the museum; he kindly sent me a copy of the image so I could include it here:

Illustration from Marja Keyser's Komt dat zien!
De Amsterdamse kermis in de 19e eeuw
(‘Come and see! The Amsterdam fair in the 19th century)
Courtesy of Laurens de Rooy
Rembrandt's famous 1632 painting "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" depicts a dissection which took place at The Waag's Theatrum Anatomicum:

Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632
As with all guild portraits, each doctor would have paid for their own portrait. Dr Tulp is one of very many anatomy guild paintings; we also were lucky enough to see a few more at the Amsterdam Hermitage as part of the exhibition Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age:

Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Jan Deyman, 1656;
fragment; the rest destroyed in a fire.
Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy, The Osteology Lesson of
Dr Sebastiaen Egbertsz, 1619.
Adriaen Backer, Anatomy lesson of Frederik Ruysch, 1670
Amsterdam Museum
The exhibit also housed an image of the Theatrum Anatomicum in the Waag from the 18th century seemingly rendered in gold and silver:

The Theatrum Anatomicum in the Waag, Jonas Zeuner
after Adolf van der Laan, Second half of 18th Century
And a memento mori themed plaque originally on display at an orphanage; it was made during a year when the city of Amsterdam was wracked by plague, with 10% of the population decimated and the orphanages overrun.

Albert Jansz Vinckenbrinck (1604-1664), Death, 1663
Wealthy surgeons might opt for inclusion in a guild portrait, but another and less expensive way surgeons could be immortalized would be to have their family crest painted on the ceiling of the Waag's Theatrum Anatomicum; they can still be seen today

Ruysch's crest is in the very center, reflecting his fame and his importance to the space.

Around the building, in gold letters, reads a memento-mori themed exhortation in Old Dutch. said to have been written by Ruysch himself:

Here is what is says, in a impromptu translation by The Waag's Helen Fermante:
Those who have done bad in life
Will be of use after our death

Health has been taken back from death itself
The dead body gives to the pupil even though its dumb and its tongue already dead, advises you not to do as criminals
Head, finger, kidney, tongue, head, lung, brain, bones, and hands

Give you the living a warning example

So you hear and take to heart

that when you go along the different paths of life

you'll be convened that even in the small details God is still hidden there
In this way, one could see the Theatrum Anatomicum as an extension of the aims of Ruysch's home cabinet, where he displayed his unique preparations that were equal part science and memento mori, such as the allegorically themed fetal skeleton tableau in the illustration below. The skeleton at the bottom is holding a mayfly which, as it only lives a single day, is a symbol of mortality. The top skeleton plays a violin atop a mountain of gall and bladder stones, surrounded by foliage crafted from other preserved human remains. You can find out more about the remarkable Frederik Ruysch--who we call our patron saint--here.

To see more photos from our Amsterdam Anatomy Weekend, click here. The next iteration will take place on April 21-23 2007. If you sign our mailing list by clicking here, you will be alerted when the event is announced.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oskar Kokoschka's Effigy of Alma Mahler, 1919

In 1919, artist Oskar Kokoschka commissioned doll maker Hermione Moos to create a life-sized effigy of his former lover Alma Mahler, widow of composer Gustav Mahler and one of the most pursued and celebrated women in Vienna. Despite being unhappy with the results. he painted and photographed the doll many times, and took it out as his companion to the theater and restaurants. Eventually, he ceremonially doused it in red wine and beheaded at a party.

Learn more this--and much more!--in the new Morbid Anatomy Thames and Hudson / Artbook / D.A.P. book "The Anatomical Venus," out at the end of May!

More can be found here. It can be pre-ordered in the USA here, and here for the rest of the world. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Kapuziner Crypt (Kapuzinergruft): Housing the Bodies of the Habsburg Royal Family, Vienna, Austria

Kapuziner Crypt (Kapuzinergruft), where the bodies of the Habsburg royal family are stored. — in Vienna, Austria. From a visit yesterday with dear friend and wax sculptor Eleanor Crook.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Anatomical Venuses and Pathological Moulages at This Weekend's Vienna Anatomy Weekend!

This weekend in Vienna, Morbid Anatomy is joining forces with two astounding Viennese medical museums--The Josephinum and The Narrenturm--for our first ever Vienna Anatomy Weekend!

The Josephinum--founded in 1785--houses an incredible collection of 18th century anatomical waxes crafted by the famed la Specola workshop in Florence, including its own dissectable Anatomical Venus, seen above with one of our lecturers, sculptor and ceroplast Eleanor Crook. The Narrenturm (bottom image) houses one of the largest and most stunning collections of pathological waxes and wet specimens I have ever personally seen in an atmospheric 18th century madhouse.

I suggest spending Saturday at the Narrenturm and Sunday at the Josephinum to be sure to see all. Below is my suggested full schedule; you can email to register for all Narrenturm events and for all Josephinum events. Fee can be paid at the Museums on the day of; please bring cash. Also, the museums are literally a 5 minute walk from one another, which is not clear from the addresses.

Also, we are so excited that our opening party will now take place at The Narrenturm on Friday at 5pm!

Very much looking forward to seeing you there!


5pm-Opening party at The Narrenturm (Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna). Registration via Email:

The Narrenturm (Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna)
Registration via Email:

10 - 11:30 : Lectures (8€)
• Introductory remarks by Morbid Anatomy Museum co-founders Joanna Ebenstein and Tracy Hurley Martin
• Eduard Winter on Occult Narrenturm
• Laurens de Rooy on Amsterdam’s Vrolik Museum
• Eleanor Cook: Anatomy and Expressionism

Tours (10€ each tour; please specify which you you would like to do)
Times: 1, 3 and 5
• Tour 1: Architectural tour with veterinary, electro-pathology and gynecology focus
• Tour 2: copious overview of the collection with emphasis on moulages (painted wax casts)
• Tour 3: backstage tour in areas not open to general public, such as the administrative floor, the attic, the depot and the preparation

The Josephinum (Währinger Straße 25, 1090 Vienna)
10:30 AM: Lectures in guided tours (30€ for all tours and lectures)
Registration via Email:

Lectures by Christiane Druml, Director of the Josephinum
• History of the Josephinum
• Anatomic wax models and conservation

12:00: Guided Tours
Includes all three tours:
• 18th Century Anatomical wax models (30 minutes)
• Temporary exhibition „de oculis“ (30 minutes)
• Walking tour “Old general hospital Vienna” (45 minutes)

See full schedule of events here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Count Carl Von Cosel - Beyond Death: Guest Post by Filmmaker in Residence Ronni Thomas

People like Von Cosel live so far outside our materialist world that it’s hard for them to even perceive ’normal'. They challenge reality without effort, inhabiting in a world of their own design. Which is why I am driven to create a documentary about this strange, beautiful life.
--Ronni Thomas, Morbid Anatomy Filmmaker in Residence
Morbid Anatomy's filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas is hard at work on a new feature length film detailing the story of self-styled Count Carl von Cosel (aka Carl von Cosel), a man best remembered today for trying to preserve the body of his beloved.

Ronni is trying currently raising funds via Kickstarter for this ambitious and worthy new project. More on the story of Cosel in Thomas' guest post below, and in the video above. Please consider supporting this amazing fever dream of a film if you can! You can do so by clicking here.

Count Carl Von Cosel - Beyond DeathIts very easy to take the story of Carl von Cosel and strip it down to the extremes: He became obsessed with a patient of his, she died, he dug her up, he slept with her for 7 years... And most accounts of his story are whittled down to just that in a sense... A mad, sad necrophile who went to extreme lengths to have the object of his desire. For the internet age, thats about as much as anyone wants to know before moving on to the next post.

The mad doctor sitting at the pipe organ he traveled the world with
But for me, "Slept with a corpse for 7 years", seemed to beg more information. My latest, highly ambitious film project, No Place For The Living,, aims to supply those interested with that information. For the past 2 years, I've made it my own personal obsession to make some sense of the Cosel story. I've devoured the sparse amounts of literature on the subject and have endured the several cheesy amber tinted dramatic recreations for television. But mostly, I am basing my story on his own personal testimony... His Journal. Of all the writings, it speaks the loudest. It fills in alot of whats MISSING from the story: the 'why'.
The cover of Cosel's journal, published by Fantastic Adventures
 Now, of course I'm glossing over many details myself so let me back up a bit. If you are unfamiliar with the Cosel story, here is generally what you'll find. In 1930s Key West, Florida, a German immigrant who would dub himself 'Count' Carl von Cosel took work as a Radiologist at the Maritime Hospital. This was during the height of the tuberculosis epidemic and patients were dropping by the dozens. One of these patients was a 20 year old Cuban immigrant named Elena Hoyos. Cosel, who was 54, became instantly obsessed with the girl. In his journal, he claims to have been introduced to her spirit several times in his life and she was his 'spirit bride'. I should note that he had a very living wife and 2 daughters living on mainland Florida in Zephyrhills.

Of course Elena dies despite the Count using what he considered 'advanced technological' efforts to save her (really he was just shooting her up with radiation). He takes it upon himself to have her buried. This is odd for her family, but they agree due to their own financial situation. They also agree to let the mad Count 'rent' Elena's bedroom. Cosel moves in immediately. Almost a year passes when he realizes that heavy rains might damage the body. So, he manages to have the body dug up and placed in a mausoleum that he built with his own hands. He visits the crypt daily and converses with the dead girl. She begins to feel lonely (in his own testimony) and requests for him to take her home.... which he does. They move into a home on the beach and for 7 years they remain together until Elena's sister demands to know if rumors of her sister being not at all in the grave are true.
Elena Hoyos - Before / After
Its shocking for sure. But his journal tells a much madder tale, rife with romance and gothic visions. He plays the part of a Hollywood Mad Scientist using Alchemy, Medicine and Mysticism to bring the body of Elena back to life... an achievement he declares to have been a success. He makes references to Eastern methods of curing 'death' and disease. He seems to be confused and torn between spirituality and science... he's a desperate man, playing all sides to bring his Frankenstein Bride back from the dead.

So much historical effort has been put in to focus on his alleged sexual encounter with the corpse that little has ever been done to really scratch the surface of this entirely insane story. Its got ghostly visitations, a statue that springs to life in an Italian cemetery, a hand-built 'airship' that resembles more a George Melies prop than anything that could ever take flight (it had massive pontoon wheels and no wings) and there's even a big explosion toward the end. Its a cinematic dream. A Gothic Romance. So I ask to go PAST the alleged necrophilia, and give his story a chance. Take a Fortean approach to his case, suspend disbelief and enter the astonishing and uncanny mind of Count Carl von Cosel...
The Contessa Elena Airship which doubled as a
makeshift laboratory for Elena
Please consider supporting this project here on Kickstarter. Thanks a ton!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Morbid Anatomy Vienna Anatomy Weekend at the Narrenturm Pathological Museum and the Josephinum Museum, April 22 – April 24th

The Morbid Anatomy Vienna Anatomy Weekend schedule has been finalized, with special tours, backstage access and lectures at two incredible medical museums, the Narrenturm, with its spectacular pathology collection in the 18th century "Fools Tower," and the Josephinum with its exquisite Anatomical Venuses and 18th century waxes!

Full schedule follows. Hope very much to see you there!
Morbid Anatomy Vienna Anatomy Weekend at the Narrenturm Pathological Museum and the Josephinum Museum

Dates: Friday, April 22 – Sunday, April 24h
Location: Narrenturm Pathological Museum and the Josephinum Museum, Vienna

Friday April 22:

5PM: Opening party at the Vienna Museum of Natural History. Free admission, cash bar. Must RSVP to Email

Registration via Email:
10€ per guided tour, 8€ for the lectures
Please specify name and time of desired tour

Saturday April 23

10 - 11:30 : Lectures:
• Introductory remarks by Morbid Anatomy Museum co-founders Joanna Ebenstein and Tracy Hurley Martin
• Eduard Winter on Occult Narrenturm
• Laurens de Rooy on Amsterdam’s Vrolik Museum
• Eleanor Cook: Anatomy and Expressionism

11:30 – 1pm lunch break

1pm first round of guided tours
3pm second round of guided tours
5pm third round of guided tours
7pm end

Sunday April 24

10 - 12 : first round of guided tours
12 – 1pm lunch break
1pm second round of guided tours
3pm third round of guided tours
5pm fourth round of guided tours
7pm end


Tour 1: Architectural tour with veterinary, electro-pathology and gynecology focus
Tour 2: copious overview of the collection with emphasis on moulages (painted wax casts)
Tour 3: backstage tour in areas not open to general public, such as the administrative floor, the attic, the depot and the preparation

10€ each, please specify time and name of tour when making reservations.

Registration required via E-Mail:

Saturday April 23 & Sunday April 24
Guided tour package // price 17€ (cash only) for three tours
maximum of participants 80

Starting times: 10:00 am and 2:30 pm
• Anatomic wax models (30 minutes)
• Temporary exhibition „de oculis“ (30 minutes)
• Walking tour “Old general hospital Vienna” (45 minutes)

Sunday, 24rd April
Lecture and guided tour package // price 30€ (cash only)
maximum of participants 80
Lectures (20 minutes each)
Starting time: 10:30 am

Christiane Druml, Director of the Josephinum
• History of the Josephinum
• Anatomic wax models & conservation

Guided tours
Starting time: 12:00
• Anatomic wax models (30 minutes)
• Temporary exhibition „de oculis“ (30 minutes)
• Walking tour “Old general hospital Vienna ” (45 minutes)


Dentistry museum
Natural history museum
Crime museum
Aqua terra zoo
Sigmund Freud museum
Mozarthaus Vienna
Leopold museum
Funeral Museum
Catacombs of St Stephens Cathedral
Central Cemetery

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dissectable Anatomical Wax Venus from the Workshop of Rudolf Pohl, Münchner Stadtmuseum, 1930s

One thinks of Anatomical Venuses as an 18th and 19th century phenomenon, but here is material proof that they continued to be made at least until as the early 1930s. This dissectible life-sized wax Anatomical Venus was created around 1930 by the wax modeling workshop of Rudolf Pohl and exhibited at a fairground museum as part of Oktoberfest 1933 and 1934. You can see her today at the fabulous Münchner Stadtmuseum.

Learn more in new Thames and Hudson / Artbook / D.A.P. book The Anatomical Venus, out soon! More can be found here.

Photos by Joanna Ebenstein.