The Anatomical Venus - the exhibition catalogue from Morbid Anatomy Museum available to buy at Museum Bookstore

The Anatomical Venus

Regular price £19.95

'wonderful and epically illustrated book' - The Telegraph

The Anatomical Venus

This beautiful illustrated book explores the Anatomical Venus - life-sized dissectible wax women with glass eyes, strings of pearls, and golden tiaras crowning their real human hair, created in eighteenth-century Florence as the centrepiece of the first truly public science museum.

The first book of its kind, The Anatomical Venus, by Morbid Anatomy Museum cofounder Joanna Ebenstein, features over 250 images—many never before published—gathered by its author from around the world. Its extensively researched text explores the Anatomical Venus within her historical and cultural context in order to reveal the shifting attitudes toward death and the body that today render such spectacles strange. It reflects on connections between death and wax, the tradition of life-sized simulacra and preserved beautiful women, the phenomenon of women in glass boxes in fairground displays, and ideas of the ecstatic, the sublime and the uncanny.

  • Author: Joanna Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy Museum Co-founder
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Date published: May 2016
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-0500252185
  • Dimensions: 24.8 x 17.9 x 2.7 cm

'In this exquisitely illustrated study, artist Ebenstein, founder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, finds her peculiar subject at the intersection of science and art in 18th-century Florence. The original Anatomical Venus is a life-size, dissectible female figure, meticulously sculpted from delicately pigmented wax by artist Clemente Susini for Florence’s Natural History Museum. The Venus and her subsequent wax sisters were created with the aim of teaching anatomy to a popular audience. The placid faces of these figures are framed by human hair, and they are often bedecked with necklaces and silk bows. They recline languorously on satin cushions. Various sections of these Slashed Beauties, as they came to be called, can be removed to show the organs and the muscles beneath the skin. Created in Europe at a time when public executions and dissections were forms of entertainment and the Paris morgue was considered a major tourist attraction, these wax creations were not perceived as disturbing to viewers. This book raises intriguing questions about science, religion, philosophy, beauty, sex, desire, and art while tracing the influence of these macabre sculptures through the centuries' - Publishers Weekly

'wonderful and epically illustrated book' - The Telegraph

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The Anatomical Venus