Anatomical wax models

The Museum’s recently restored wax models represent one of the richest existing collections of its kind, a legacy of great historical, scientific and artistic interest.

Between the end of the 17th century and the first half of the 19th, the problems related to the preservation of cadavers, as well as the impediments introduced by the clergy and the government to restrict their use for scientific purposes, eventually favoured the development of what has been called “artificial” anatomy. Models in wax and other materials (such as wood, plaster, papier-mâché) became increasingly used for teachingpurposes.  

Anatomical wax modelling especially flourished with the schools of Bologna and Florence, whose works also prospered outside Italian borders.   Turin’s collection of anatomical wax models is made up of over 200 works, distributed in several showcases. Some of them date back to the second half of the 18th century and were, in some cases, manufactured inTurin. But it is only from 1815 onwards that Turin witnesses the creation of a particularly active Laboratory of waxworks,  set  up  by  the  anatomist  Luigi  Rolando,  who  had  learned  about  the  anatomical  ceroplastic technique in Florence.

We owe Turin’s production of this period to Luigi Cantù and his son Giuseppe, who followed the “Florentine technique” characterized by the wax reproduction of the bone structure, as opposed to the Bolognese technique, which made use of real bones.  Around 1830 a number of models were bought from the ceroplastic workshops of Florence and Naples.

During the second half of the 19th century anatomical wax modelling lost importance in favour of new preparation and conservation techniques which encouraged the collection of “natural” anatomical preparations. From a scientific and an educational point of view, wax models were consequently regarded as obsoleteo.

 

 


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