Flap Anatomies and Authorless Culture

Abstract of presentations
Symposium on Animated Anatomies

Andrea Carlino, Institut d’Histoire de la Médecine, Université de Genève
Flap Anatomies and Authorless Culture in 16th Century Europe

Most anatomical fugitive sheets bear in their title the word contrafactus,  its vernacular translations (counterfeit, contrefait) or other vernacular synonyms, such as Vif portrait and True description. These words have a double meaning: the imago contrafacta is a faithful copy of another image, or a veridical representation of something that the artist claims to have personally witnessed. The artist, in calling the image he himself has created a “contrafact,” claims to be a simple eyewitness and reports only what he has seen. Somehow, he aims at disappearing—as an author—behind the objectivity of the artefact and the suggested exact representation of the event or the object he has reproduced—namely the human body. I will discuss the cultural consequences of such a designation and will show how these anatomical broadsides belonged to what we could call the realm of Early Modern authorless culture.  Most printers, print-makers and print-sellers of these broadsheets in fact operated according to a logic of free appropriation, reproduction and diffusion of practical knowledge, contributing to shape a new public of consumers for technical, scientific, and medical matters.

 

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