Fondazione Prada and David Cronenberg dissect female wax models for an anatomy exhibition

Cere Anatomiche with David Cronenberg at the Fondazione Prada

Fondation Prada in Milan and David Cronenberg anatomize the science and art behind female bodies at ‘Cere Anatomiche’ using historical lifelike wax models from earlier decades. The double ExhibitionRunning from March 24th to July 17th, 2023, follows the latest addition to the Fondazione Prada’s research project and sci-fi horror director David Cronenberg’s artistic fascination with the science of the human body.

As Cronenberg says, the wax figures were created by La Specola — one of the oldest science museums in Europe and from where the wax figures were borrowed — primarily as a teaching tool for exploring the human body for those who never had access to the relatively rare cadaver dissection sessions at universities and teaching hospitals.

“But in their effort to create certain partially dissected complete characters whose body language and facial expressions showed neither pain nor distress, did not indicate that they were being tortured or punished or even operated on, they produced randomly living characters who are in the to.” seemed fits of ecstasy. It was this startling choice on the part of the sculptors of these figures that caught my imagination: What if it were the section itself that inspired this ecstasy, this almost religious ecstasy?’ he says.

Close-up of a reclining female statue showing the distribution of the lymphatic vessels, late 18th century, Museum “La Specola” | Header: “Venus”, reclining female statue, 1782 | Photos by Saulo Bambi (unless otherwise noted), images courtesy of Fondazione Prada

dissected bodies with hyper-realistic flesh in milan

For ‘Cere Anatomiche’, Fondation Prada in Milan and David Cronenberg present a selection of 13 18th-century ceramic works from the collection of the Florentine Museum. Featuring hyper-realistic flesh, muscle and bone, these dissected bodies focus on the female wax models and the way the female body has been studied for scientific purposes.

A short film made by David Cronenberg in La Specola will accompany the exhibition. In this film, the director uses digital editing to present an alternative narrative about women’s bodies for academic research. Exploring recurring elements and themes of his creative vision, the film alludes to his fascination with the human body and its possible mutations and contaminations.

In doing so, David Cronenberg offers an alternative view of the four female wax models on display. He distracts them from their academic function as medical demonstrations and teaching tools. His film reveals the vibrant world of ceroplasty, imbued with his eye and style for psychological impressions and intense emotional responses.

cere anatomiche fondazione prada david cronenberg
reclining female statue showing the distribution of the lymphatics, late 18th century

female wax figures displayed for public study

The exhibition then unfolds into an encounter between scientific and artistic narratives. In the main exhibition space of the Fondazione Prada, La Specola’s waxes are exhibited with a scientific, museum-like approach. On the ground floor, the same works merge with Cronenberg’s imagery, revealing the enigmatic process of bodily metamorphosis.

Cere Anatomiche features four reclining female wax figures from the Lymphatic System department and one from Obstetrics along with nine detailed pregnancy wax figures made during the Enlightenment and a series of seventy-two exhibition copies of anatomical drawings collected in nine showcases.

For Cere Anatomiche, Fondazione Prada in Milan and David Cronenberg collaborated with La Specola, one of the oldest science museums in Europe and part of the Museum of Natural History and Museum System of the University of Florence. La Specola houses the collection of the Sicilian wax modeler Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701). Between the late 18th and early 19th centuries he made 1,400 anatomical wax figures to illustrate the anatomy of the human body without having to resort to dissection of real cadavers.

cere anatomiche fondazione prada david cronenberg
reclining female statue depicting the lymph vessels, late 18th century | Photo © Aurelio Amendola

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *