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ca. 1771-1800, [Wax anatomical figure of reclining woman, Florence, Italy]
What is odd about this model? It could be described in many ways – beautiful, exposed, sexually alluring. Is that consistent with its role as an anatomical teaching model? Should it have these qualities, or other more scientific ones? Wax anatomical models of this period had different uses for different audiences.
In the European anatomical tradition, the standard or normative body was always male. Female bodies were studied in terms of how they differed. In practice this meant a focus on their reproductive capacities – most often they were pregnant, with a foetus as one of the removable pieces. But does this explain the model’s passive, sexualised pose?
Female wax anatomical models were often referred to as ‘Venuses’, after the goddess of love and beauty. Reclining on silk or velvet cushions, in positions copied from works of art, they often had flowing hair and jewellery, which added nothing to their anatomical use. They served to show not just physical differences but also gender differences, as perceived in European culture at that time. A third way of understanding the model is to see the exposed body layers as a symbol of nature ‘unveiling herself’ to the medical gaze. Looking deep into the body was considered to be the route to knowledge.
In just one model, ideas about art, anatomy, gender, flesh and knowledge were all conveyed. So it is not surprising if you have mixed reactions to the model – it was made that way.
ca. 1870-90’s, [carved wood skeleton marionette], Tiller Family Marionette Company
This is one of 35 marionettes from the Tiller-Clowes troupe, one of the last Victorian marionette troupes in England. Marionette shows were a popular form of entertainment for adults in the 19th century, many of them family concerns which travelled around the country long before the advent of film and television, presenting shortened versions of London’s latest popular entertainment from melodramas and pantomimes to minstrel shows and music hall. In the 18th and early 19th centuries their theatres were relatively makeshift, but after about 1860 many became quite elaborate, with walls constructed from wooden shutters, seating made from tiered planks of wood, and canvas roofs.
The figures were carved, painted, dressed and performed by members of the company. This is a trick figure of a dissecting skeleton which would have walked or danced on stage before magically dispersing its bones in the air and re-forming itself. This was such a popular marionette music hall act that most marionette companies would have featured a similar figure in their troupe.
ca. 1870, [carte de visite portrait of what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan member in full costume], Harley, Metcalf & Winter
The Klan was organized after the Civil War by Nathan Bedford Forest. Its members wore black costumes with skulls and crossbones and terrorized newly-freed black citizens of the South as well as northern “carpetbaggers”. Their gruesome images appeared in periodicals of the time. Various outrages prompted Congressional investigations in 1871 and condemnation by President Grant and others. The night rider has the initials or word “MED” on the front of his costume and yields an ax.
This looks more like a member of the Med Fac Society, a secret Harvard student club.
Oh man, thanks so much for bringing the Med Fac to my attention; I had never heard of them before this comment. I totally agree, this very well might be a member.
The Med Facs (short for “Medical Faculty”) of Harvard were a secretive group upperclassmen who basically considered themselves doctors of destruction and physicians of havoc. From 1818 to the early 20th century, campus pranks were their forte. According to the Harvard Crimson and the New York Times the Med Facs are credited in blowing up the campus pump, vandalizing, tagging, and stealing rare books and manuscripts from the campus library. To be accepted into the society, a prank was to be committed that was serious enough to result in expulsion from the school if caught.
The secretive nature of, and ‘MED’ lettering on this man’s unusual outfit might suggest a relationship with the Med Facs rather than the Ku Klux Klan.
(Source : kyleroberts819)
(Source : ihatesundaymornings)