The Development of the Study of Anatomy from the Renaissance to Cartesianism: Da Carpi, Vesalius, Estienne, Bidloo

Author: Cuir, Raphael
This book is the first to focus on a paradox of anatomical images from the Renaissance to the 18th century: the representation of skeletons and flayed figures in a state of animation, i. e. apparently endowed with life despite the logical impossibility of this being so. The exploration of this phenomenon—a paradox in modern eyes only—entails careful study of the deep coherence between artistic and anatomical theory, a coherence that developed within the same framework of thinking (humanist rhetoric), and was determined by a dominant philosophical concept (teleology).


“[Cuir’s] soundly argued work is a brilliant addition to a series of studies that have revived the history of the body in recent years, on both sides of the Atlantic. Not designed as an exhaustive study, it includes neither Horst Bredekamp, Rafael Mandressi, Magnus Hundt, nor Pietro d’Abano (whom Raphael Cuir has dealt with elsewhere). The author’s erudition is aimed at enlightening, rather than overwhelming the reader. His work sheds light on the role of scholarly research in the evolution of artistic representations of the body, and on the role of the image in the reception and transmission of experimental knowledge; it highlights the connections that developed between the visible and the legible, thanks to the practice of anatomy.” – Prof. Yves Hersant, École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

“The goal of this brilliant book is to re-establish the relationships between science and art, anatomy and biology, subject and subjectivity within a novel interpretation of body images. Anatomy decomposes the subject, to the point of offering the possibility of reduction (if not erasure) within objectivity; however, it also offers—and this argument is epistemologically fundamental—the other side of this de-composition, by posing (at the beginning of this century) the problem of the subject's materiality, its formation, its forms, and the real-life experience of its bio-flesh. This constitutes the wealth, and depth, of the book.” – Prof. Bernard Andrieu, Nancy Université

“The chapters that deal with the influence of teleologism (according to Aristotle and Galen) in the anatomical thinking of the Renaissance are fascinating. Raphael Cuir examines the motives that lead to the creation of this incredible type: the dissected corpse acting, moving over the still page as if it were alive. According to M. Cuir this is all to do with a range of reasons. The animation corpses would be the result of several factors: teleology, the combination Christian morality (memento mori) and Epicureanism — which was the object a renaissance revival: the animated corpse is in fact the image of a living body containing within itself the fact of death, which does constitute a terrible warning. The book newly highlights the reversal which Descartes causes once the latter fends off teleologism to be replaced by a machine-body, a clock, a corpse: the animated corpse is naturally animated because organs exist only through their dynamic function, when the subject is alive. Raphael Cuir’s conclusions are the most convincing.” – Prof. Nadeije Laneyrie-Dagen, École Normale Superiéure

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Foreword by Yves Hersant
Preface by Georges Didi-Huberman
I. Anatomy is a Humanist Discipline
1. Remarks on the sources
2. Berengario da Carpi (Jacopo Barigazzi, 1460 - 1530)
3. Charles Estienne (1504 - 1564)
4. Andreas Vesalius (1514 - 1564)
5. The excellence of sight and the power of the image
II. The Natural Philosophy of Art and Aesthetic Teleology
1. Art as a model for nature
2. Nature as a model for art
3. Art meets the challenge of natural philosophy
4. The living artwork—the human body as a work of art
5. Renaissance hylozoism
III. Natural Philosophy of the Living: Teleological Anatomy
1. Aesthetic projection
2. Teleological anatomy
3. A dual teleology
4. The case of Leonardo da Vinci
IV. The Eschatology of Anatomy
1. Anatomy and the themes of death
2. The last judgement
3. The Dit des Trois Morts et des Trois Vifs, and the Danse Macabre
4. A pagan theme
V. Anatomical Eros
1. The science of procreative pleasure
2. The curtain of Venus
3. Dissected truth
4. The anatomy of divine loves
5. Empire of the senses, empire of the image
6. Anatomical Eros and Christian morality
VI. The Anatomical Conquest of the Self
1. The discovery of the self
2. The world in the self
3. Know thyself
4. The anatomist dissected by his discipline
5. Dissect yourself
VII. The Death of the Ecorché, or Cartesian Anatomy
1. The cadaver machine
2. The flayed machine
3. The persistence of life