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PIETRO BERRETTINI DA CORTONA
TABULAE ANATOMICAE, 1788, 2. AUSGABE, BILDER AB 1618
EXHIBITION OF THE BODY BY THE LIVING DEAD
The work consists of 27 large-format anatomical plates that are believed to have been created between 1618 and 1620. However, they were actually not published until 1741, more than a hundred years later. The present version was edited by the Italian philosopher and anatomist Franciscus Petraglia in 1788.
The introduction and plate descriptions take up almost one hundred pages, followed by the engravings. Some images show the figures as active participants in their own dissection. The living dead show the observer their body parts. This active integration of the specimens is found in anatomical works from the 16th to 18th century; however, Cortona's images are deemed to be the "zenith" of this type of illustration.
The pictures make us question where the inside of the human body begins. If, for example, a body shows us its own internal organs, it is revealing what is concealed inside. The architectural or scenic background defines the outer frame. Additional limitations are achieved by the mirror and picture frame that are drawn alongside the figures.
GREAT PUBLIC INTEREST
The plates were printed for anatomical teaching by physicians and surgeons. Due to the permanent lack of corpses, the universities had to refer to existing anatomical drawings, some dating back hundreds of years.
The templates for the copper plates originated from the architect and painter Pietro Berrettini da Cortona (1596–1669), which the editors considered to be a sign of quality. The artistic, professional baroque illustrations appealed to the public, meaning that the work still aroused interest after hundreds of years. The second edition is explained by the ongoing demand
A RESPECTED ROMAN ARTIST
Pietro da Cortona achieved fame during his lifetime as an architect and painter. In the past, his authorship had been questioned until twenty of the artist's original pictures emerged in the 1970s as part of the estate of English anatomist William Hunter. On the other hand, Luca Ciamberlano was established as the engraver as he had engraved his initials LC into plates 1 and 4.
Today one can assume that the anatomical dissections that served as the models were performed by Giovanni Maria Castellani, an anatomist and surgeon at Ospedale Santo Spirito in Rome. The year 1618 is mentioned in the foreword of the first edition, but was later removed, which led to questions regarding the date: Castellani ran the Ospedale Santo Spirito in Rome from 1620, but was dedicated to his anatomical studies before that.
The doctor and surgeon Gaetano Petrioli, personal physician to the King of Sardinia, published the first anatomical plates. He included keys and added anatomical drawings of other anatomists to the plates. He also added plates XXI to XXVI from previously known works, primarily from Vesalius’s Fabrica. Franciscus Petraglia, Roman physician and philosopher, had Petrioli's secondary figures removed, replacing Petroli’s text with his own extensive keys, but he kept the additional plates.
ARTISTIC ATLASES AS AN OBSOLETE MODEL
The images were drawn during the dissection of deceased hospital patients. Due to the supply in institutions supported by the authorities such as hospitals or workhouses, the bodies of the deceased were often handed over for anatomical study. In doing so, however, in the eyes of society at the time, a double desecration was taking place: On the one hand, the corpse was mutilated, preventing complete resurrection on Judgement Day, and on the other hand, only the corpses of executed criminals were otherwise commonly handled in this manner.
In the era of the Enlightenment, there arose a huge demand for anatomical works that satisfied the scientific claims of the time. Cortona's idealised body illustrations may have been to the taste of a Baroque audience, but they could not satisfy the needs of the aspiring medical profession. Above all, the second edition of Cortona's plates was at the end of an era of artistic anatomical atlases, which were replaced soon after by scientific atlases.