Panoptikum is a bizarre book created and written more than 75 years ago and only recently published.
The artist Herbert List was fascinated by the life-size waxwork figures on display at the Präuscher’s Panoptikum in Vienna. List's work was published in magazines such as Vogue, Life, and Harper’s Bazaar and in 1944 he photographed these wax 'artificial humans', depicting them as 'corpses set in position and daubed with make-up – frozen in poses of the utmost intensity', akin to the inhabitants of Sleeping Beauty's castle. List went on to employ a string of fairytale scenes, historical tableaux and medical subjects which he combined with text to create an illustrated book.
This bibliophile edition is based on List’s original draft, and includes a commentary (supplied as a detachable booklet) which places the work in the context of his artistic oeuvre and the history of Präuscher’s Panoptikum in Vienna, a collection of curios (or 'Chamber of Horrors', some have called it) collected by Hermann Präuscher and the museum of anatomy in which popular scientific interest was combined in the nineteenth century with a sensationalist fascination for erotica and exotica.
Herbert List (1903 – 1975) emigrated from Germany in 1936 as an artist influenced by surrealism and the New Objectivity. He then took pictures in southern Europe and lived in Athens until the German invasion. After the war, he became increasingly interested in portraiture, reportage, and street photography and worked for the Magnum agency.
Spector Books, 192pp, 29.5cm x 24cm, hardcover, 2022
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