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Skeleton of a boy sitting on the 'D' of 'Dream', from Francesco Bertinatti, Elementi di anatomia fisiologica applicata alle belle arti figurative (Turin, 1837-39).  Artist: Mecco Leone. Lithograph
Introduction Anatomical Dreamtime Getting Real Visionary and Visible Gallery Learning Station Exhibit Information Exhibition Program Site Map History of Medicine Division National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health Dream Anatomy Home

Dream Anatomy presents anatomical images and the technologies of their display in the following three interpretive sections:

  1. Anatomical Dreamtime focuses on the early modern era. In the 1500s and 1600s artists employed visual metaphors and iconographic references to depict human anatomy making use of all the artistic styles and genres available to them. The images, playful and rich in social meaning, featured fanciful scenes and bizarre juxtapositions.
  2. Getting Real examines the movement to dispense with metaphor and fancy. Between 1680 and 1800, anatomists began calling for a more realistic, "scientific" anatomy. They argued that metaphor, death imagery, and theatrical gestures did not belong in anatomical illustration. Realistic scientific illustration no longer employed bizarre juxtaposition, metaphor, and theatricalism, but had its own dreaminess: it used intense color, sumptuous textures, radical partitioning of the body and sometimes blatant ugliness.
  3. Visionary & Visible looks at fanciful anatomical images in the period from 1800 to the present. In fine art, popular science and popular culture, anatomical representation continued its long association with death imagery, allegory and aesthetics. Currently, artists and scientists are exploring and rethinking the boundary between art and science. Advances in the technology of anatomical imaging, most notably the National Library of Medicine's Visible Human Project, are inspiring new anatomical visions.