"What have you done to my girl?"

The anatomical wax by Clemente Susini told by Prof. Alessandro Riva

An eye to the side, as thoughtful and finely crushed, his mouth half open to catch the last breath, his face and chest flesh off in layers, yet permeated by demure elegance, where the intimacy of the plot of veins, nerves, muscles and casings is shown as tree roots emerge from the ground, revealing the ingenious existence.


The glaze lying sideways, as thoughtful and finely crushed, the mouth half open to catch the last breath, the face and chest fleshed off in layers, yet permeated by demure elegance, where the intimacy of the plot of veins, nerves, muscles and casings is shown as tree roots emerge from the ground, revealing the ingenious existence.

 

It is the twelfth table Anatomical  by Clemente Susini, that with other sixty-three prepared and twenty-three windows defied two centuries of history of wax modeling and chose the city of Cagliari to continue in perpetuating the beauty of human bodies of which are true sculptural representation.
 
 

Who knows what would today their ingenious modeler if he could interact once again with the anatomist Francesco Antonio Boi, faithful co-promoter: in difficult times, when the wax were taking shape in the fervor of the shops of the Florentine school of the nineteenth century and under the protection of the famous founder of the Museum of the La Specola Felice Fontana, probably could not have imagined the the destiny of the wax would be an island and a common purpose of enlightened men that the Anatomical Institute of Cagliari hosted in the most delicate moment of Susini's masterpiece.


Prof. Castaldi before and Professors Maxia and Cattaneo later, nearly bewitched by the beauty of the collection, protected them from the disasters of the Second World War and studied in deep until the reconstruction of the history of a symbiosis between art and science that does not seem to find no equal anywhere in the world.


Alessandro Riva, Professor emeritus at the University of Cagliari, Professor of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Cagliari, Professor of History of Medicine and decennial curator, almost foster father of modeling wax of Susini, always known that and does not forget it.

XII wax on the cover of the Journal of Anatomy (Editor Gillian Morris Kay, 2010), on the left, the cover of the exhibition catalog Spectacular Bodies of the Royal Festival Hall Hayward Gallery (London Oct 2000- January 2001)
XII wax on the cover of the Journal of Anatomy (Editor Gillian Morris Kay, 2010), on the left, the cover of the exhibition catalog Spectacular Bodies of the Royal Festival Hall Hayward Gallery (London Oct 2000- January 2001)

Prof. Riva, welcome back from Galway: how was this journey of "representation" to divulge the work of Susini in Ireland?

Another great satisfaction. High definition pictures of all wax figures will remain on permanent exhibition at the University of Galway. The Italian Ambassador claims that are the most beautiful in the world, even better than those of the Museum La Specola of Florence. And just think that, paradoxically, we were just lucky to hold them here in Cagliari. If they continued to be attributed to the more famous Fontana they would have already taken away from Sardinia.


An inestimable value.

Recognized more abroad than in Italy. So think that in the official Atlas published by the Society of Russians Anatomists includes more than forty photos of the Waxes of Cagliari alongside the images obtained with the most advanced technologies.

In London wax Number XII has been reproduced on one of the covers of the volume of the Journal of Anatomy after I presented the collection at the University of Oxford, and on another occasion the same work has been a source of artistic inspiration for the launch image of the exhibition Spectacular Bodies at the Royal Festival Hall of the Hayward Gallery. For two months, that image has flooded the totems of all stations in London and the exhibition He scored sixteen million viewers.

Thirty years of unconditioned love. Almost a mission. When did you get in touch for the first time with the waxworks?

It was the early 60s and the Prof. Cattaneo transmitted me the incredible interest for this work. It took another fifteen years in order to be able to give them the suitable accommodation that is still the Cittadella dei Musei of Cagliari. It is a troubled history the Wax one ... during the Second World War Maxia hid them wrapped in newspaper to protect them from view by the Allies who occupied the Anatomical Institute. Before the war adventure were been transported on the island, restored, mistreated.
They endured, and still do, the heat of the Sardinian land.

 

So many anecdotes, like in all the adventures that you respect. Is there one in which you are especially fond of?

There are so many. Certainly the journey to Tokyo. My wife and I. And the wax in the middle seat. Upon arrival had been such an extent manipulated by the customs officers that suffered damage to the hypoglossal nerve. I was desperate. Once at the National Science Museum in Tokyo I was trying to figure out how to fix it and by chance I got up the silk sheet on which were lying the waxworks.

I brightened: Clemente Susini had left drops of various colors wax, such as spare parts. It took me hours, spatulas and flame in hand. And the whole team of Japaneses around me were present at this delicate operation. Then, still I remember the astonishment when I saw that for the exhibition of the Royal Festival Hall of the Hayward Gallery wax which were inspired, which is a woman, had suddenly become a man. They had received a photo of the wax in which you could not see the hair. I called them and said, "But what have you done to my girl?".

 

In short, we could say that they are also a little your creatures. What would you like for these childrens of soul?

I would like that they continue to be valued as a perfect example of collaboration between art and medicine.


Museum of  anatomical wax Clemente Susini

Address: Cittadella dei Musei, Piazza Arsenale, 1 -09124 Cagliari
tel. +39 070 6757624
Timetable: 9:00 to 13:00 and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., closed Mondays
Ticket: € 1.55 (full); € 0.52 (people youger than 4 and older than 65 years). Free for students of the University of Cagliari

website: medicina.unica.it/cere/

02 July 2015

Valentina Zuddas
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