Mapping Anatomical Collections in Nineteenth-Century
Vienna is a city renowned for its historical medical collections, among which the most famous are the pathological-anatomical collection in the Narrenturm, where ‘wet’ specimens of diseased organs are mixed with dermatological moulages, and the collection of Florentine anatomical wax models acquired by Emperor Joseph II from the Florentine workshop of Felice Fontana in the late eighteenth century.1 The modes of display of these collections, in spaces that have changed little in decades and centuries, and with specimens often in their original casings, subtly suggest that what we see is what the creators of these collections envisaged. Collections, it seems, are static: they teach straightforward gross anatomical and pathological knowledge that has withstood the test of new scientific advances. But take the example of Joseph’s Florentine wax models, which remained in the same space for over 200 years. They were purchased for Joseph’s new military medical and surgical academy (1785), known as the Josephinum, the purpose of which was to educate military medical staff and, more importantly, to serve as the experimental station for Joseph’s radical ideas on education.2 Yet the expensive models arrived to a critical reception from Viennese medics who, by advocating dissection over wax models, were also rejecting Joseph’s restructuring of medicine and, more broadly, his reforms and
1 J. Szilvássy, ‘Ein öffentlich zugängliches Pathologisch-Anatomisches Museum: Was erwartet der Besucher vom Pathologisch-Anatomischen Bundesmuseum im “Narrenturm” in Wien?’, in Körper ohne Leben: Begegnung und Umgang mit Toten, ed. Norbert Stefenelli, Vienna: Böhlau, 1998, pp. 389-92; Manfred Skopec and Helmut Gröger, Anatomie als Kunst: Anatomische Wachsmodelle des 18. Jahrhunderts im Josephinum in Wien, Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 2002.