UCL logo

UCL Discovery

UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Fabricating the body: the anatomical machines of the Prince of Sansevero

Peters, RF; Dacome, L; (2008) Fabricating the body: the anatomical machines of the Prince of Sansevero. In: Greene, V and Griffin, P and DelRe, C, (eds.) (pp. pp. 161-177). AIC - The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works: Washington DC, US.

Full text not available from this repository.

Abstract

This paper focuses on two anatomical models (known as anatomical machines) commissioned by the Neapolitan nobleman Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of Sansevero (1710–1771), to be part of his collection of curious objects. They were made by the anatomist Giuseppe Salerno in the 1760s and believed to be the result of anatomical preparations based on a technique known as anatomical injection (injection of embalming substances). Techniques of anatomical injection were perfected in the late 17th century by a few Dutch anatomists. By the mid-18th century, this kind of anatomical preparation was regarded as capable of providing special insights into the anatomy of the human body and considered an invaluable source of medical knowledge based on the visualization of inner bodily parts. Models were regarded as curiosities as well as teaching objects. They also offered a means to overcome disadvantages traditionally associated with anatomical dissection such as the physical deterioration of cadavers and the risk of contamination. It is not known exactly when or why it started but Sansevero’s anatomical machines have gradually become the protagonists of a macabre legend. According to this legend, they are the outcome of an operation of human vivisection in which a woman and a man were killed through the injection of embalming substances in their blood vessels. The legend, a mixture of popular depictions of the ‘mad scientist’ and modern concerns and attitudes towards anatomy and dismemberment, still circulates today. It is so vivid that it has inspired horror stories and appeared in comics and websites. Due to lack of written documentation on their early history, controversy continues about how Sansevero’s anatomical machines were actually made. This project responded to this controversy by combining the scientific investigation of their raw materials and manufacturing techniques with historic research. We now have data that indicates that the models are not what they have been believed to be for at least 200 years. Our findings not only challenge the “authenticity” of these objects as products of anatomical injection but also allow for a re-telling of the story of the anatomical machines and an insight on the world where the legends surrounding Sansevero and the models were originated.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Fabricating the body: the anatomical machines of the Prince of Sansevero
Publisher version: http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseactio...
Additional information: AIC 35th Annual Meeting with the theme: Fakes, Forgeries, and Fabrications was held in Providence, RI, USA
Keywords: anatomical models, human tissue, reconstruction, injection
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/182831
Downloads since deposit
0Downloads
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item