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Art, antiquarianism and early anatomy
  1. Clare E L Guest
  1. Correspondence to Dr Clare E L Guest, Department of Italian, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland; celapraikg{at}


Discussions of the early relationship between art and anatomy are shaped by Vasari's account of Florentine artists who dissected bodies in order to understand the causes of movement, and the end of movement in action. This account eclipses the role of the study of antiquities in Renaissance anatomical illustration. Beyond techniques of presentation, such as sectioning and analytic illustration, or a preoccupation with the mutilated fragment, antiquarianism offered a reflection on the variant and the role of temperament which could be adapted for anatomical purposes. With its play on ambiguities of life and death, idealisation and damage, antiquarianism also provided a way of negotiating the difficulties of content inherent in anatomical illustration. As such, it goes beyond exclusively historical interest to provoke reflection on the modes, possibilities and humane responsibilities of medical illustration.

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