Historical Augmented View into the Body – Anatomical Ceroplasty

In the 18th century, a new type of documenting and presenting the human anatomy had been invented. Anatomical ceroplastics are wax models of full bodies or parts of it with the intent to present gathered information from dissection with a long lasting, realistic looking, three-dimensional media.

Medical Venus by Clemente Susini

The idea of anatomical ceroplasty was born in Bologna with Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701) as the most important and fi rst modeler, who used colored wax for his medical models. The workshop, of Bologna was followed by the Florentine workshop having been installed in the buildings of the museum La Specola initially called the Imperial Regio Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale. At the Florentine workshop anatomists dissected cadavers to prepare templates for the ceroplasty figures produced by wax modelers. This interdisciplinary collaboration guaranteed high quality results combining aesthetic, realism and anatomic correctness.

In particular, one category of models known as Medical or Anatomical Venuses became popular to attract the public’s interest on the subject. The majority of Venuses, in most cases designed as pregnant women, have a modular structure. Topologically arranged layers and modules can be removed to access deeper regions of the body. One of the most famous examples of this genre is Clement Susini’s Medical Venus that is exhibited today at the museum La Specola in Florence.

Apart from dissection of cadavers, this is the first approach, introducing a 3D view into the human body revealing hidden structures of the “system of the system” – very similar to many proposed applications for Medical Augmented Reality.

Video about the former exhibition Exquisite Bodies of the Wellcome Collection, London, UK.

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Christoph Bichlmeier

Enthusiast of Augmented Reality for Medical Applications.

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