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Dissecting the Meaning of the Anatomical Venus

What is an Anatomical Venus? The Cult of Weird community dissected some lovely ladies for the answer to this week’s giveaway question on Instagram.
Anatomical Venus

In 18th century Europe, wax anatomical models of idealized female figures that could be opened up and dissected became the popular method of studying human anatomy. Here’s a great description from The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death & the Ecstatic by Morbid Anatomy cofounder Joanna Ebenstein:

Of all the artifacts from the history of medicine, the Anatomical Venus?with its heady mixture of beauty, eroticism and death?is the most seductive. These life-sized dissectible wax women reclining on moth-eaten velvet cushions?with glass eyes, strings of pearls, and golden tiaras crowning their real human hair?were created in eighteenth-century Florence as the centerpiece of the first truly public science museum. Conceived as a means to teach human anatomy, the Venus also tacitly communicated the relationship between the human body and a divinely created cosmos; between art and science, nature and mankind. Today, she both intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.

Get the book on Amazon right here.

For the contest, correct answers have to be submitted in the form of a photo or video post on Instagram. The more creative, the better. I narrowed down the entries to 4 finalists, then let the Cult community vote. The winner of this week’s memento mori Box of Weird is @juleababs:

Anatomical Venus

There were many other great entries this week, including a dissected Barbie, a life size mannequin, and some other great works of art. Here are my favorites:

Box of Weird: Memento Mori Edition

Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities

There is just ONE MORE chance this month to win a Box of Weird filled with a copy of the brand new release Ghostland by Colin Dickey courtesy of Viking Books, Hearse Driver’s Union buttons from Dead Sled Brand, a black beeswax spine candle from Grave Digger Candles, morbid patches and stickers from Poison Apple Printshop, real antique coffins screws, a diecast Matchbox hearse, and more macabre oddities. Follow @cultofweird on Instagram and turn on notifications so you don’t miss anything.

The FINAL QUESTION will be posted Monday morning.

UPDATE: 10/29/2016 The contest has ended. Here are the results of the other weeks:

Anatomical Greeting Cards for Your Funny Bone

These quirky anatomical greetings cards are sure tibia hit with the science nerds and other weirdos in your life.
I lobe you brain anatomy greeting card
I Lobe You card available here.

Blue Specs Studio is a purveyor of handmade science and anatomy-themed greeting cards described as “offbeat and oddly sweet.” If you have something to say, why not say it with osteology?

After all, nothing says “let’s bone” like a femur.

Here are some more humerus designs:

Anatomy greeting cards by Blue Specs Studio

See more in the Etsy shop right here.

Anatomy for the Blind

Human anatomy discussion for the blind 1913

This old photo depicts a talk and touch session for the blind about human anatomy, 1913.

Dissection on Display: Cadavers, Anatomists, and Public Spectacle

Dissection on Display by Christine QuigleySince Herophilus, the “father of anatomy,” performed the first public human dissection in the third century BCE, audiences have been spellbound by the cutting apart of cadavers.

Dissection on Display: Cadavers, Anatomists, and Public Spectacle by Christine Quigley traces the past and present of public dissection, from Herophilus’s first cuts to the revival of anatomy as entertainment through spectacles like Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds, including the attacks on anatomy in the Middle Ages, the influence of Renaissance anatomist Andreas Vesalius, the procurement of bodies through execution and body snatchers, and the withdrawal of dissectors behind medical school doors in the early 20th century. It reveals that the anatomical spectacle is not new, but has remained in the gray area between education and entertainment for centuries.

Beauchene Skull: Art of the Exploded Skull

Beauchene human skull
An exploded Beauchene human skull

A Beauchene Skull, also known as an exploded skull, is a disarticulated human skull that has been painstakingly reassembled on a stand with jointed, movable supports that allows for the moving and studying of the skull as a whole or each piece individually.

In the mid-1800s French anatomist Claude Beauchene developed this method to display the anatomy of the head. Beauchene would meticulously clean a skull, separate its bones, and mount them on a stand designed to exhibit them at once individually and in context.

The concept of the exploded skull was first introduced by Leonardo da Vinci in his anatomical drawings.