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Skeletal remains: The first accurate representation of ‘The Anatomy of Bones’ from 1733
06.05.2017
10:43 am
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Bones. This is what we come to once we’re dead and the soft tissue has gone. Bones. The sturdy architecture that shapes and protects our bodies. Most of us will end up as dust or ashes, or if very, very lucky, may one day become fossilized and exhibited in a museum as an example of a dumb 21st-century Homosapien. There’s nothing else once we’re dead. No seventy-two virgins (or is it dried fruit?), no Alleluia chorus, no wings and no harp, just the remnants of a structure that once held us together.

Humans are born with 270 bones which gradually fuse during childhood to become the 206 individual bones of adulthood. Bones are damned amazing things. They are tough, flexible, and protective. They are made of a composite of materials including collagen fibers and calcium phosphate. In 1733, William Cheselden (1688-1752) published his Osteographia or The Anatomy of Bones—a lavish and beautifully illustrated book of human and comparative osteology. It was the first fully accurate description of the human skeletal system. Cheselden was already renowned for his previous volume The Anatomy of the Human Body (1713) and now hoped to do for bones what he had done for the flesh.

Cheselden was a surgeon and teacher based in London. He was appointed surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1720 and then at St George’s Hospital in 1733. His specialty was in the removal of bladder stones, though he later became far better known for his work in eye surgery, especially the removal of cataracts. He was also surgeon to Queen Caroline. As a teacher, Cheselden wanted to share as much of his medical knowledge and experience as possible.

For the Osteographia, Cheselden employed two artists, Gerard Vandergucht and Jacob Schijnvoet, to illustrate the anatomy of bones. To ensure accuracy in the illustrations, Cheselden made use of a camera obscura which transposed the image of each bone onto paper for the artists to copy. However, many of the skeletons were presented in strange so-called realistic positions—for example the skeleton of a cat arching its back at the sight of an approaching dog, or a man kneeling down praying. This was achieved by wiring the skeletons into position, which more often than not detracted from any attempt at factual representation. Thus the book proved to be a failure, though today Cheselden’s Osteographia is considered one of the great historical works of art and science.

Those with an interest can view the whole book here.
 
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More of dem bones, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.05.2017
10:43 am
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For the discerning Satanist: Demonic sculptures made from bones
05.14.2015
09:49 am
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Sculptor John Paul Azzopardi creates these lovely, elaborate skeletal structures from actual bones to a sort of “Refined Satanist” effect. The works invoke a kind of “pop pagan” iconography—ram’s heads, bats, a mysterious structure that looks like it belongs on an altar etc.—but the articulated detail of each sculpture prevents them from being perceived as too… “serial killer?” Azzopardi does not say where he gets his bones, but they appear to be small animal bones, or possibly small children’s bones, humanely sourced from crooked orphanages and Marilyn Manson’s trash cans.

From his site:

Bone is a collection of fossilized structures that explores the gentle temperance located within the constitution of sound, i.e. its very silent centre.  The architectural relationship that oscillates back and forth from the simple and the complex to the living and the dead connects space and form, creating existential structures of interwoven silence. The death embedded in its form, its life. This might confront the spectator with a spectre, the simulacrum of itself that stalls, halts being something in its tracks.

 

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Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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05.14.2015
09:49 am
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Rooms full of human bones: Czech master animator Jan Švankmajer’s stunning Ossuary

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Described by Milos Forman as “Disney + Bunuel,” stop-motion animator Jan Švankmajer is one of the few artists to truly translate the spirit of early-20th century surrealism for the present. Folks like Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam cite Švankmajer’s late-‘80s and early-‘90s feature films like Alice and Faust as classics in the art form.

But most of all, Burton and Gilliam point to Švankmajer’s early short films from the ‘60s through the early ‘80s. One of these, the 10-minute Kostnice from 1970—known as Ossuary—isn’t stop-motion at all. Instead, it’s a beautifully stylized study of the decoratively laid-out bones of 70,000 people in the Cemetery Church in suburban Sedlec in the Czech Republic.

Shot during the dire couple of years after the Prague Spring liberation of 1968 collapsed under an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, Svankmajer made Ossuary a grim reminder of human fallibility.

As Jan Uhde wrote in his piece on the film for KinoEye:

Film-makers, particularly those of the “Czech New Wave,” were among the most severely persecuted. The fact that a non-conformist like Švankmajer was allowed to shoot in this atmosphere at all was in part due to the fact that he was working in the relatively obscure and inexpensive domain of short film production; this may have saved him from the crackdown that struck his more exposed colleagues in the feature film studios during the 1970s.

Moreover, Švankmajer’s remarkable tenacity and creative thinking enabled him to sometimes outwit the regime’s ideological watchdogs[…] The film was commissioned as a “cultural documentary,” a form popular with the authorities and considered relatively safe politically. But the subject Švankmajer chose must have been a surprise for the apparatchiks: on the one hand, the Sedlec Ossuary was a first-rate historical site which, at first glance, suited the official didactic demand. On the other hand, there was the uncomfortable subject of decay and death as well as religion, reflecting a subtle yet defiant opposition to the loud secular optimism of the communist officialdom.

 

 
Get: Jan Švankmajer - The Ossuary and Other Tales [DVD]

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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11.04.2010
11:57 am
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