Don’t Lose Your Head!

Sadly, this is the last week of our Treasured exhibition at the Gateway Galleries, but don’t be too sad because all the inspiring treasures from our diverse collections have given us great insight into revealing objects that blow our minds!

Head Dissection, Wax model by Tramond of Paris, 1900.

One such object that really inspires me is the Anatomical wax model head dissection by Tramond of Paris, made around 1900. I think initially I was drawn to the lifelike wax model for shock value, as well as curiosity. Despite its lifelikeness, on closer inspection I realised that it is not real, phew! The dissected head embodies (pardon the pun) the great way in which art and science enable one another. From as long ago as the Old Masters, artists and scientists have explored both the complexity and beauty of the human body. Artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, needed to study human anatomy, pathology and physiology to produce the richness of the human form in their paintings.

Highly detailed wax models, like this head dissection, were commonly used instead of real bodies for teaching during the 19th and 20th centuries. They were particularly beneficial during the summer months when heat made working with real bodies difficult! The wax model is part of our Anatomy and Pathology collection which is still used for teaching by the School of Medicine. A lot of the modern models are now made from plastic.

head dissection outside

Scientific knowledge owes its progression to expert draughtsmanship, recording the inner workings of the human body. The dissected head shows arteries, nerves, tendons and muscles of the face.  It is pretty amazing how intricate the inside of the head is. What is visually interesting is the contrast between the peaceful outside of the face and the chaotic inside of the dissection. (As I write this it definitely conjures up that Monday morning feeling.)

Inside the dissected headOur Anatomy and Pathology collection has restricted access so it has been a privilege to see objects from its collection represented in Treasured. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to see more from its collection next year!

Remember there is still four days to visit the Treasured exhibition before it closes.

Rebecca Prentice, Curatorial Trainee (Learning and Access)


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