Lot 3008
  • 3008

ITALIAN SCHOOL, LATE 18TH – EARLY 19TH CENTURY POSSIBLY A FOLLOWER OF CLEMENTE SUSINI (1754-1814)

Estimate
180,000 - 250,000 HKD
Sold
325,000 HKD
bidding is closed

Description

  • A Wax Anatomical Model of a Head
the naturalistically modelled wax head divided vertically into two halves, the left showing a skull with a hollowed eye socket and an extensive network of cranial nerves, the other half flayed revealing muscles and the eye, all raised on a rounded pedestal

Catalogue Note

The present wax head appears to have been originally produced as an anatomical model. These sculptures were produced in vast quantities, and were in great demand as visual aids for medical students in the eighteenth century. A number of these is now housed in the museum of La Specola in Florence, which was once the workshop of the Natural History Museum. Joseph II, the Holy Roman emperor, was a great admirer of these naturalistic models when he visited the museum in 1780, and ordered a set of his own.

The tradition of creating realistic wax anatomical sculptures was first started by Giuseppe Ferrini in 1771. Nevertheless, it was the Italian sculptor, Clemente Susini, who epitomises the realism of these vividly accurate models. The models were based in part on anatomical drawings, and in part on corpses dissected by anatomists such as Felice Fontana and Paolo Mascagni. Susini’s works were housed in many European collections, including the Collezione delle Cere Anatomiche di Clemente Susini in Cagliari. A similar example was also amongst the collections of the Science Museum, London (fig. 1).

Although originally used as an educational figure of anatomy, the present model was later installed on a pedestal possibly to create a memento mori. From the sixteenth century, skulls were commonly used as memento mori (‘Remember death’) as they symbolise the transience of human life. They were also known as 'Vanitas' from the reference in the Book of Ecclesiastes (1.2) to "vanity of vanities, all is vanities."

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