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ARTECHNE – Technique in the Arts, 1500-1950


3 Jun 2016 - 6 Mar 2016
University of Winchester (UK)

Presentation by Marieke Hendriksen at Death, Art & Anatomy Conference in Winchester

Marieke Hendriksen will present at the Death, Art and Anatomy Conference, an interdisciplinary conference exploring the intersections between death, art and anatomy, by bringing together art historians, medical historians, and practising artists. The conference will be held at the University of Winchester (UK) from 3-6 June 2016.

‘Casting life, casting death: the relation between early modern corrosive preparations and artistic casting techniques’

Although the historical connections between anatomy and the visual arts have been explored in quite some depth, especially in the cases of early modern anatomical drawing, sculpting, the making of wet preparations and wax modelling, the role of artistic techniques in the creation of corrosive preparations has received little attention thus far. This is remarkable, as there appear to be significant similarities between casting techniques like those employed by Jamnitzer and anatomical corrosive techniques. This paper explores these similarities and argues that the distinction between artistic and anatomical techniques was long non-existent; a largely artificial division retrospectively enforced by nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians. It does so by analysing the material and technical qualities of corrosive preparations from the period 1700-1900, and by comparing the results from this analysis with written instructions for making corrosive preparations and making casts from the same period in both anatomical and artist handbooks. Moreover, the paper links this analysis to the development of the word ‘technique’ as a neologism in the eighteenth century, a semantic shift which coincided with the emergence of the ideal of the disinterested in art and philosophy, and with the creation of the new category of fine arts, which was distinct from crafts, liberal arts and natural philosophy.