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SMA Sistema Museale di Ateneo

Anatomical wax models

This collection is an accurate three-dimensional treatise on human anatomy, in which man is the subject of investigation. It is composed of works of art which, in the absence of digital reconstructions of a computer (we are still between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), could replace corpses as didactic tools for teaching anatomy.

The Museum holds 513 urns with human anatomy waxes: each wax model, consisting of one or more pieces, is inside a wooden and glass case. The whole figures are 26, of which 18 are life-size - 6 standing and 12 lying down. The collection is enriched by a set of didactic tables in mixed technique (tempera, watercolour, pencil).

One of the first creations of the ceroplastics workshop in Florence was "La Venere" (Venus) - the only one in the Museum made of dismountable wax parts, where various layers or sections can be removed to reveal underlying body parts including a small fetus.

Another noteworthy item is "Lo Spellato" (The unskinned), full-length wax model in a position reminiscent of Michelangelo's works - in a continuous balance game between art and anatomical teaching tool.

Even among the smallest pieces, there are significant works of mastery, from the brain to the anatomy of the foot.

Each wax model is a faithful reproduction of a dissected corpse, so as to represent anatomical anomalies and even glands unknown at the time of production of the works.

The wax production began in 1771 and after 5 years the 'La Specola' Museum was born by the will of the Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine: a considerable number of anatomical waxes had already been prepared, thanks to the modeller Giuseppe Ferrini under the guidance of Felice Fontana. Among the most famous waxworks masters of the Florentine school, Clemente Susini and Egisto Tortori: right after Tortori's death (1893) the workshop stopped all activities.

The importance of this collection is also evidenced by the numerous requests for reports due to its scientific and educational value, for conferences in both the medical and artistic fields.

Learn more about the anatomical wax collection (English text at the bottom of the pages)
Poggesi, M. "La collezione delle cere anatomiche", in: Barsanti, G. and Chelazzi, G. (eds), 2009. "Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università degli Studi di Firenze: Le collezioni della Specola: zoologia e cere anatomiche", Firenze University Press (81-105)

 

 
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