Morbid Anatomy, Anatomical Theater, and the Secret Museum

New York-based historian, photographer, and designer Joanna Ebenstein is the mastermind behind Morbid Anatomy, a blog that merges the seemingly disparate fields of art and science through a unique examination of death and medicine. As part of her research, Ebenstein has traveled the world in order to collect images for Anatomical Theatre: Depictions of the Body, Disease, and Death in Medical Museums of the Western World. Her truly bizarre, creepy, but no less fascinating series of photos includes depictions of 18th century wax models from Italy, 19th century anatomical preparations from the Netherlands, original specimens from the Hunterian Museum in London, and pathological models from the Mütter Museum in Pennsylvania. Ebenstein brings her eponymous “morbid anatomy” out west to the Velaslavasay Panorama for a special illustrated lecture: Anatomical Venuses, the Slashed Beauty, and Fetuses Dancing a Jig: a Journey into the Curious World of the Medical Museum.

Natural History Museum Backroom, Netherlands © Joanna Ebenstein

Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Collection, Private Collection, London, England © Joanna Ebenstein

Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Collection, Private Collection, London, England © Joanna Ebenstein

Natural History Museum Backroom, Netherlands © Joanna Ebenstein

National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington, D.C. Assorted anatomical models; Drawer in backroom. © Joanna Ebenstein

Hunterian Museum, London, England. Part of John Hunter's collection of specimens illustrating morbid anatomy; Acquired or prepared by John Hunter (1728-1793) © Joanna Ebenstein

The Josephinum, Vienna, Austria. "Obstetric Model" Wax model with human hair in rosewood and Venetian glass case; Workshop of Clemente Susini of Florence, 1781-1786 © Joanna Ebenstein

Museum of Anatomical Waxes (Museo Delle Cere Anatomiche, “Luigi Cattaneo”). Bologna, Italy. Wax model of the eye apparatus and related structures; Clemente Susini, late 18th or early 19th Century © Joanna Ebenstein

“La Specola” (Museo di Storia Naturale), Florence, Italy. "Anatomical Venus." Wax model with human hair and pearls in rosewood and Venetian glass case; Probably modeled by Clemente Susini (around 1790) © Joanna Ebenstein