The "Spindle-Shanked Vesalius": Simulating Dissection In The Anatomia Humani Corporis

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Conlin, Rose Marie

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University of Guelph


The Dutch anatomical atlas the Anatomia humani corporis (1685) has continuously been dismissed in medico-historical discourse as only having aesthetic value. Much of the existing literature that examines the Anatomia concludes that as a result of author and anatomist Govard Bidloo’s shortcomings in his descriptive text and poor reputation among his contemporaries, the atlas offers little contribution to the development of early modern anatomy. This thesis examines the atlas’s history of dismissal and seeks to recuperate it by contextualizing the atlas’s design and purpose within Dutch sociocultural discourse, specifically with regards to attitudes towards death, the female gender, and the Mennonite faith. I argue that the Anatomia’s significance in medical discourse lies in its adaptation of Dutch cultural attitudes to produce the first attempt at objectively simulating the dissection process in anatomical study, ultimately providing future anatomists with a sound reference in the absence of a cadaver.



Anatomy, Dutch Art, Bidloo, Art History, Seventeenth Century