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The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death & the Ecstatic (Hardcover)

Joanna Ebenstein

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ISBN 10: 1938922913 / ISBN 13: 9781938922916
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Hardcover. Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 224 pages. 0.857. Bookseller Inventory # 9781938922916

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Title: The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death & the ...

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:New

About this title


Of all the artifacts from the history of medicine, the Anatomical Venus―with its heady mixture of beauty, eroticism and death―is the most seductive. These life-sized dissectible wax women reclining on moth-eaten velvet cushions―with glass eyes, strings of pearls, and golden tiaras crowning their real human hair―were created in eighteenth-century Florence as the centerpiece of the first truly public science museum. Conceived as a means to teach human anatomy, the Venus also tacitly communicated the relationship between the human body and a divinely created cosmos; between art and science, nature and mankind. Today, she both intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art. The first book of its kind, The Anatomical Venus, by Morbid Anatomy Museum cofounder Joanna Ebenstein, features over 250 images―many never before published―gathered by its author from around the world. Its extensively researched text explores the Anatomical Venus within her historical and cultural context in order to reveal the shifting attitudes toward death and the body that today render such spectacles strange. It reflects on connections between death and wax, the tradition of life-sized simulacra and preserved beautiful women, the phenomenon of women in glass boxes in fairground displays, and ideas of the ecstatic, the sublime and the uncanny.
Joanna Ebenstein is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, writer, lecturer and graphic designer. She originated the Morbid Anatomy blog and website, and is cofounder (with Tracy Hurley Martin) and creative director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York. She is coauthor of Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy, with Dr. Pat Morris; coeditor of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology, with Colin Dickey; and acted as curatorial consultant to Wellcome Collection’s Exquisite Bodies exhibition in 2009. She has also worked with such institutions as the New York Academy of Medicine, the Dittrick Museum and the Vrolik Museum.


Today, the Anatomical Venus has no shortage of acolytes who make the pilgrimage to La Specola―an eclectic mix of artists, academics, and connoisseurs of the uncanny. Despite the diversity of these visitors’ interests, however, the most essential impact of the Venus remains the same. (Ian Shank Artsy)

The embodiment of the uncanny, the Anatomical Venus thus exists somewhere between the aspirations of Enlightenment reality and the alcoves of human fantasy. (Alicia Inez Guzmán THE Magazine)

The waxworks are spectacularly photographed, in rich color, from intimate angles. One is rarely so privileged to peer so closely into the interior reaches of the body. The photographs capture the astonishing beauty of these objects along with their equally astonishing capacity to horrify. (Diane Josefowicz The Victorian Web)

The elaborate and beautiful volume, entitled 'The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death and the Ecstatic' compiles 250 images of these Venus figures - some extremely rare - collected by the author from around the world. (Gregory Burkart Blumhouse)

From beginning to end, the beauty of this book and the brilliance of its author will leave you in awe. (Dianca London Lenny Letter)

This fabulous book by the co-founder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum features over 250 images of seductive yet disquieting waxworks - many never before published: golden tiaras crowning real hair, glass eyes with real eyelashes. A mesmerizing marriage of art and science. (Sebastian Shakespeare Tatler)

...enchanting and repulsive book. (Priscilla Frank Huffington Post)

The Strangest Book of 2016...seductive and confounding. (Publisher's Weekly)

Hey barbie, take a backseat in that pink convertible of yours! Anatomically correct female wax figures were the O.G. of dolls in the 18th century. If you were a kid in the 1700s, you'll remember these awesome dolls from your childhood. Because most of us weren't... Morbid Anatomy museum co-founder Joanna Ebenstein has put together a book of haunting photos of these dissectible dolls. (Courtney Bissonette Bust Magazine)

Today, it is tempting to see the Anatomical Venus as a tragic victim, a disturbing symbol of men's desire to possess a passive woman. But The Anatomical Venus also offers convincing reasons to see the startling Sleeping Beauty, lovely even with her entrails showing, as something much more significant. 'Perhaps the draw of the Anatomical Venus comes from an unspoken, intuited resolution of our own divided nature,' Ebenstein writes, 'an unconscious recognition of another avenue abandoned, in which beauty and science, religion and medicine, soul and body might be one.' (Lauren Oyler Vice Magazine)

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