Tuesday 3rd September

‘Amazing Anatomy: The Human Body as Spectacular Object’
7pm, Old Operating Theatre, 9a St. Thomas Street, SE1 9RY (map)

Old Operating Theatre

This event is now SOLD OUT.

Tonight, make your way up the vertiginous winding staircase of the atmospheric Old Operating Theatre – the oldest in Europe, in the roof space of an English baroque church – for a night dedicated to Spectacular Anatomies.

First, join Art Macabre for a drawing workshop in which you will have the opportunity to draw a real life Anatomical Venus. Drawing materials provided thanks to Cass Art (pencils, charcoal and drawing boards). Bring along a sketchbook/paper.

Following, enjoy two illustrated talks on the human body as spectacular object with;

Anna Maerker, Senior Lecturer, History of Medicine, King’s College London, who will talk on ‘The Everyday Life of Spectacular Anatomies: The Wax Models of La Specola, Frontstage and Backstage’

The anatomical wax models of the Florentine museum La Specola have been celebrated as outstanding achievements of anatomical art since their production in the late eighteenth century. However, the serene beauty of these artful anatomies obscures the many conflicts and complications which accompanied the models from the very beginning. The talk will go behind the scenes, to the museum’s workshop, where artists, anatomists and courtiers wrestled for control over model production. The presentation will also highlight the many diverse responses of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century visitors to the waxen bodies, from delighted artists to sceptical doctors and scandalised English tourists.

John Troyer, Deputy Director, Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath, who will give a talk entitled ‘Spectacular Human Corpses: Looking at Death, Seeing Dead Bodies’.

Nineteenth century preservation technologies radically changed and mechanically altered the human corpse, producing new kinds of postmortem conditions for all dead bodies. These technologies of preservation effectively invented the modern corpse; transforming the dead body into something new: a photographic image, a train passenger, a dead body that looked alive. These technological innovations were also used by early twentieth century postmortem technologists to turn the preserved human corpse into a dead body that was atemporal. Once the human corpse could exist outside the normal biological time that controlled the body’s decomposition, it became a well-suited subject for unfettered public display. These technologies augmented how an individual could see the dead body and in ways that we living humans still use today (albeit without noticing) when looking at death.