Morbid Anatomy Museum The Anatomical Venus exhibition catalogue

The Anatomical Venus

Regular price £19.95

'wonderful and epically illustrated book' - The Telegraph

The Anatomical Venus

This beautifully 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 co-founder Joanna Ebenstein, features over 250 images—many never before published. The waxworks are spectacularly photographed, in rich colour.

Alongside these images are five essays on different topics related to the Anatomical Venus as well as a substantial introduction. The first essay sets the Anatomical Venus in broad historical context, delving into the Renaissance origins of anatomical waxworks. The second essay, "From Sacred to Scientific Use of Wax" investigates the material history of wax in the production of many kinds of human-like figures, from religious relics to the Anatomical Venus. The third essay, "Venus at the Fairground," considers the Anatomical Venus in relation to popular culture.

A strangely delightful addition to your library.

  • 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

'The waxworks are spectacularly photographed, in rich color, from intimate angles. One is rarely so privileged to peer so closely into the interior reaches of the body. The photographs capture the astonishing beauty of these objects along with their equally astonishing capacity to horrify'  - The Victorian Web

'Joanna Ebenstein's sumptuous book is fascinated by this era in which the study of nature was also the study of philosophy; in which a body created for medical purposes could also be read as a work of art' - Guardian

'Fabulous … A mesmerising marriage of art and science' - Tatler

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The Anatomical Venus