Anatomy Lesson

Beginning in the late 1500s, physicians discovered that lift-the-flap technology could be an effective means of teaching anatomy in print form. By layering cut pieces of paper, publishers carefully engineered pages to display internal organs in the manner of a dissection. This format for the book as anatomy lesson lived on into the twentieth century, but was particularly popular for displaying the female anatomy, with its hidden chambers and possibilities for displaying embryonic development. Casey Gardner, a contemporary artist, explores this genre by targeting the very type of early scientific inquiry it epitomizes: a relentless, blundering pursuit of nature’s elegant, wondrous enigmas.

Pinax microcosmographicus in quo certissimum anatomiae compendium proponitur

In this innovative seventeenth-century Dutch production, the German physician, Johann Remmelin created an interactive atlas of the human body. Anatomical plates include over one hundred movable pieces that successively reveal layers of human anatomy in a truly spectacular engraved lift-the-flap book.

Body of Inquiry: A Triptych Opening to a Corporeal Codex

Inspired by a tranquil, yet grotesquely exposed anatomical model, Casey Gardner created Body of Inquiry to reveal the absurdity of this contrast. Equally important to Gardner is the amazing complexity of the female anatomy. Side panels highlight vintage lab equipment, tracing the history of medical investigation and its clumsy attempts to reveal natural wonders. Inside, the central figure with its layered flaps cut in the shape of internal organs, recalls the long history of anatomical lift-the-flap books, and is itself a codex-like book that one may page through. Organs are identified not in Latin, but in terms of great veneration. Lungs are “lobes of fusion and diffusion”; the heart is “four chambers of purifying and recharging”; the uterus, “capable of significant expansion.”

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