Stripped bare: Body Worlds' plastinates as anatomical portraiture, informed by both the wax sculpture of Museo della Specola, Florence, Italy, and the practices of traditional Early Modern portraiture

  • Author / Creator
    Johnson, Kimberly
  • Body Worlds, the traveling international exhibitions of posed, skinless cadavers, has attracted controversy since 1995. Installed corpses appear animated due to the plastic polymers that are forcibly injected into their bodies that enable the body to retain an enduring figural posture. A particular focus of criticism is the portrayal of the eroticized female corpses inside Body Worlds’ displays. However, theatrically sensualized female anatomical figures are not new, having been first presented in the eighteenth-century wax sculpture of Museo della Specola, Florence, Italy. Unlike the waxes of Museo della Specola, Body Worlds’ plastinates constitute an entirely new genre of display that I call “anatomical portraiture.” The compositions of anatomical portraits are implicitly informed by the display practices of both early modern anatomy collections and traditional portraiture. Approaching Body Worlds’ plastinates as anatomical portraits facilitates a more explicit understanding of how gender is constructed using cadaver flesh, plastic polymers, and material objects.

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  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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  • Institution
    University of Alberta
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  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Ball, Allen (Art & Design)
    • Meagher, Michelle (Women's Studies)
    • Boone, Betsy (Art & Design)