chapter  2
11 Pages

Enlightened Wax Works

Viewing the Anatomical Woman in the Viennese Josephinum
WithAngelika Vybiral

This chapter examines the significance of the gendered and aesthetic construction of the female wax models exhibited in the historical-anatomical collection of the Viennese Josephinum. This Austrian medical academy was founded in 1784 and its collection of medical instruments features realistic wax models of human bodies. Wax models were an important means of anatomical demonstration for physicians and medical students during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of the wax models produced were male, which makes the female wax models in the Viennese Josephinum particularly significant. Two female wax models in the collection, the famous Mediceische Venus and a female écorché, challenge eighteenth-century gender norms through their mere existence, yet they are still bound by them, demonstrating the gendered nature of the medical apparatus and the rhetorics of science.