Darlings, I have a delightfully creepy collection for you this morning: a gallery of 18th and 19th century wax anatomical models. An art technique since the 14th century, the use of exceptionally detailed wax figures to demonstrate anatomical principles first arose in the late 17th century with a collaboration between wax modeler Gaetano Giulio Zumbo and surgeon Guillaume Desnoues, gaining popularity throughout Europe in the 18th century. From Journal of Anatomy:
Wax models were used for teaching anatomy to medical students because they made it possible to pick out and emphasise specific features of the body, making their structure and function easier to understand. This made them especially useful at a time when few bodies were available for dissection.
Particularly interesting (and perhaps particularly gruesome to modern sensibilities) were “Anatomical Venuses,”‘ extremely realistic female figures finely crafted of wax, human hair, pearls, and rosewood, featuring both a languid, artistically beautiful form and a functional anatomical breast plate that could be removed to reveal internal organs, musculature, veins, even a fetus in the womb, blurring the line between art and science. The amazing Joanna Ebenstein of Morbid Anatomy has featured several fantastic collections of anatomical model photography, but her images of Anatomical Venuses are especially haunting and bizarre. Enjoy!