As corny and as scenic and nearly as crowded as I had feared and hoped and feared. I can’t imagine how tourist-crushed it is at peak season, but it looked darn pretty in the wintery frost haze.
This collection of anatomy waxes in Florence is one I’ve read about for years. The official website that I checked before leaving on m’big trip was somewhat discouraging, describing a complicated process involving a phone call to apply for a tour place, and implying that the collection would probably be closed when I was going to be in Florence, between Christmas and New Year, as it was part of a University-supervised collection. So I sighed, and resigned my self to only seeing all the other ridiculously astonishing art and palaces on display in this amazing city.
Then . . . we came across the collection somewhat accidentally, at the first museum we visited, The Museum of Zoology and Natural History, next to the Pitti Palace. I’d gone there with my husband to see the old taxidermied animals (we’re those kind of tourists), and noticed there were anatomical waxes, behind an iron grill. The lady at the front desk said oh yes it was the collection, and possible to visit with a guide today, should she put our names on the list? Oh yes. Photos were fine, although no flash of course. The thick old glass cases were a challenge to photograph through, although to the eyes, it was perfect. Amazing to see in the round, and to see the original dioramas in wax that inspired the whole project, astonishing little works of gruesomely gorgeous art by Gaetano Zumbo.
The colours have shifted since the models were made 200+ years ago at the behest of Leopold II, then Grand Duke of Tuscany. But still the work is all so delicate, so precise, so so so everything. Beautiful, art and craft serving science. There are several ‘Venus’ models, which I have seen in miniature in other medical collections, but here were the originals, as created by Clemente Susini, life size with long (real) hair, a string of pearls, and a belly made to be removed to reveal the inner workings of females (the glass case and angle meant I didn’t get a photograph, but there’s a discussion of them here).
There’s fine summary of the collection’s history in The Journal of Anatomy. The most complex models (for example of the lymphatic system) involved hundreds of dissections, conducted mostly on the bodies of criminals and ‘unclaimed poor’. Each finished piece is a testament to collaboration between skilled dissections, and skilled wax workers. The collection was also important for the public access that was permitted – any member of the public who was ‘clean’ was allowed to visit, it was the first public science museum.
The casual portrait group I go to more-or-less weekly is quite popular, and unless you get there very early, chances are good that the only seats left will be on the outer edges – but happily, I really like drawing an interesting profile! 2 hours or so on the Surface Pro, using Autodesk Sketch. And, so bold, I even tried a little colour this time around.
Baboons, despite being the most evil of all apes, are quite photogenic, with eerily human-like eyes and looks-like-a-smile-but-it’s-not mouths. Dithering about processing this chap, to colour swap or not? Either way, I’m glad that viewing glass at the zoo is thick, even though it does make taking photographs harder!
Photographed with the IR modifed camera, and a 590nm filter
Another version of that friendly smile
So, 20-27th October, stop everything else, it’s time for the annual Improv Festival in Wellington. This year I was one of the volunteer photographers, and also ran a workshop and co-directed a show based on that workshop, took a bunch of other workshops, got on stage, and had a most excellent time catching up with improv friends old and new. I saw some of my photos from festivals past blown up super large on walls about the town, which is an oddish thing. Here’s just a sample of some pictures from a wild week.
More digital painting on the Surface Pro, working from a live model over 2 hours or so, and using Autodesk Sketch.
Most of the work (and what really decides if a portrait works or not) is the first 10 minutes, drawing as quick and as fast as I can to get the features in place, before I get distracted by details. And if I’d been working for longer, I might have tried to capture the model’s amazing multi-coloured dreads
Such a silly, simple camera toy – a small glass ball, costing about $8. But, great fun to take a photograph or ten through, until the novelty wears off, just as the technique is mastered. These came out a little differently using the infrared modifed camera as the light doesn’t reflect on surfaces in quite the usual way. Done with it for now, but I might revisit a few monuments with it, it functions as an extremely wide angle lens, so quite good for the kind of places that you usually can’t quite fit in due to other buildings and such.