Boundaries of the Body: The Art of Anatomy in the 17th Century Netherlands

Erin Travers
History of Art and Architecture
UC Santa Barbara

The 17th century Dutch physicians Govard Bidloo and Frederik Ruysch went to war over their anatomical illustrations and prepared specimens. Through a study of anatomical publications, art treatises, and archival materials, this project makes two observations: i) representational materials produced for medical instruction were a source of concern for anatomists; ii) anatomical images and objects are frequently discussed as products of the anatomist, yet these works often indicate a reliance upon artist’s knowledge. Analysis of the ways in which anatomical materials were presented in a range of settings in Amsterdam, Leiden, and Delft, provide the opportunity for a nuanced study of the production and exchange of knowledge through visual means in this period. The grantee argues that representation of the anatomized body was closely tied to claims of authority and credibility, necessitating mediation through the creation of a prescribed context of viewing, with failure to comply resulting in censure.