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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
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Visible and Visionary

Dreaming anatomy in modernity

By 1800, anatomy had been defined as a science—the investigation of the real—rather than an art. Anatomy could no longer tolerate humor, fancy, and ornament. Yet fantastic images of the anatomical body continued to proliferate. Cast out of medical illustration, imaginative anatomy found new homes: in academic art, where anatomy was an important part of the curriculum; in popular health, where the need to appeal to the public, and a free hand, inspired the creation of vivid, playful, and eccentric images; and in political cartoons, film, and fiction—wherever anatomical images could be made to serve.

Smiling skeletons with their elbows atop a bowl filled with dead people. Cropped from Bernardino Genga, Anatomia per uso et intelligenza del disegno ricercata... (Rome, 1691). Copperplate engraving. Artist: Charles Errard.
Skeleton of a boy sitting with his foot on his knee, as if removing a splinter. Cropped, from Francesco Bertinatti, Elementi di anatomia fisiologica applicata alle belle arti figurative (Turin, 1837-39).  Artist: Mecco Leone. Lithograph.

In our time, photography, radiography, digital imaging, and computer modeling have multiplied the possibilities for manipulation and play. Artists and scientists are again exploring and re-imagining the body, and investigating the boundaries between their respective disciplines. We continue to dream the anatomical body.



Next Section: Dissection Scenes and Fancies
Dreaming Art Anatomy
The People's Anatomy
Dreaming the Industrial Body
Reuniting the Divided Self
Visible Human