March 5, 2014

Venus, Deconstructed

People, Places, and Ideas: Episode #13

Today, we're going back to 18th century Florence, Italy to tell the story of one museum, La Specola, and its infamous exhibit of gruesome wax anatomical models. At the time of its founding in 1771, the new Archduke Peter Leopold found himself confronting the deep-rooted legacy of his famous predecessors—the Medici. La Specola quickly became the crux of a larger movement within Tuscany, and the museum and its wax inhabitants helped set the course for a new Enlightenment era. Rebecca Messbarger, a professor of Italian and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, is our guide, and she explains how one figure, the Venus, became central to this new regime of the human body.

We also have pictures of some of these wax models for those who are interested.

image Atlas obscura: joanna ebenstein. Audio archive.org: Domenico scarlatti harpsichord by John Sankey, Johann Sebastian bach variations by Kimiko Ishizaka, wolfgang amadeus mozart sonatas by Gianluca Luisi, antionio vivaldi concerto by largo. freesound.org: museum sound, Roaring crowd.