Anatomical Venus

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There are many objects that were created at other times in history that look strange, even horrifying, to us when taken out of context. The anatomical venus is one of those things. In these models our modern eyes see a rather sexualized image of evisceration, a woman seemingly in the throes of ecstasy even as her torso is splayed open and her internal organs hanging out. But that’s not what those in the renaissance saw. Instead they saw a tool to learn anatomy in an age of public dissections of the corpses of criminals. Female corpses were hard to come by and distressing to use even when available, so anatomists created these waxworks. The ecstatic look is the result of being modeled on women in religious paintings, whose expressions were due to divine, rather than physical or profane, throes of passion. The scientists who created the models considered the physicality itself to be divinity, and so their creations are equally ecstatic.

For more information about anatomical venuses, check out this BBC article.

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