The Anatomical and Obstetrics Collection at the Museo di Palazzo Poggi in Bologna contains some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful 18th century anatomical waxworks, including work by masters of the craft such as Clemete Suisini, Ercole Lelli, Giovanni Manzolini and his wife and fellow anatomist, Anna Morandi.
Artist and sculptor Ercole Lelli was considered one of the finest anatomical artists of the late 18th century. His ecorches, or “flayed men,” used real skeletons covered in artistic wax representations of flesh.
Trained by Lelli, anatomist and professor Giovanni Manzolini later taught his wife Anna the art of life-like wax sculpting. After his death, she became a professor of anatomy in her own right and lectured in his place. An incredible wax self-portrait created by Anna is in the collection, along with many other educational models created by the couple.
Clemente Susini’s “Venerina” wax Anatomical Venus is considered to be one of his finest. The torso of reclining figure of a beautiful nude woman contains removable organs, allowing anatomists of the day to understand the inner workings of the human body.
Susini’s models, painstaking to produce and incredibly fragile, can be seen in only a few other locations throughout the world, including the Semmelweis Medical Museum in Budapest, La Specola Museum in Florence, the Josephinum in Vienna, and the Wax Anatomy Museum ot University of Cagliari.