Anatomical Waxes: The Specola of Florence is published in conjunction with 'Cere Anatomiche', a spectacular exhibition by the Fondazione Prada, conceived in collaboration with La Specola (part of the Museum of Natural History and Museum System at the University of Florence) and the Canadian film director and screenwriter David Cronenberg.
The Cere anatomiche project unfolds in two ways – an exhibition featuring a selection of thirteen eighteenth-century ceroplastic works from the Florentine museum's renowned collection, and a series of seventy-two exhibition copies of anatomical drawings gathered in nine vitrines. While La Specola was closed for renovation the waxworks were transported to the Fondazione Prada in Milan for this show which features four reclining female figures including the so-called Anatomical Venus, a famous and rare Sleeping Beauty-like model with detachable parts and layers that can be peeled back to reveal organs, bones, muscles and even a foetus curled in her womb. The exhibition is the latest iteration of a research project with which Fondazione Prada reveals collections of great value from ‘guest museums’, offering unexpected interpretations and visions of cultural heritage by including a historical collection in a contemporary cultural context.
Anatomical wax figures were used by students in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to dissect and explore the human body in the absence of available cadavers. Wax is malleable, resistant material texturally similar to human skin, able to absorb paint and accommodate organic materials such as body hair, teeth and nails.
The waxworks are undeniably eerie and visceral, provoking mixed sensory responses including seduction, repulsion, curiosity and horror, so it seems fitting that David Cronenberg has captured them in a short film shot at La Specola for the Fondazione Prada exhibition. Cronenberg's film reveals the vivid and unexpected dimension of the waxes that perfectly underscores this plurality of emotional responses.
This book contains introductions by Miuccia Prada and Marco Benvenuti, with a statement by David Cronenberg, conversations between Claudia Corti and Mario Mainetti, and between Eva Sangiorgi and Cronenberg. With texts by Roberta Ballestriero, Paul Brown, Riccardo Venturi, Sandra Zecchi. Anthology of texts by Maria Luisa Azzaroli, Fausto Barbagli, Mario Bucci, Gianni Canova, Simone Contardi, Eleanor Crook, Francesco Paolo de Ceglia, Georges Didi-Huberman, Joanna Ebenstein, Giovanni Festa, Marcie Frank, Mauro Giori, John Hatch, Zoltan Kadar, Peter K. Knoefel, Chloe Anna Milligan, Marta Poggesi, Mario Praz, Dylan Trigg and Marcos Uzal.
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