ITALIAN SCHOOL, LATE 18TH – EARLY 19TH CENTURY POSSIBLY A FOLLOWER OF CLEMENTE SUSINI (1754-1814)
- A Wax Anatomical Model of a Head
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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."