Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Science Portal


Entries in Naples: Life, Death & Miracles dealing with science, technology, and the history of science:

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Academy of the Secrets (G.B.della Porta)
Archaic units of measure
Bruno, Giordano
Calabrian earthquake (1783) &
  Rebuilding Calabria After that Quake

Campanian Ignimbrite Eruption
    (alias, Archiflegrean volcano/caldera)
caves & karst areas
Cirillo, Domenico (botanist, doctor)
Circumvesuviana railway 
Coastal Caves of the Flegrean Fields
concrete, Roman
Dohrn, A., zoological station, aquarium
Early Modern Humans in Southern Italy
earthquake on Ischia (1883)
earthquakes in 1857, 1930, 1980
Mt. Etna-UNESCO World Heritage site

Eureka!—museum exhibit
The Fjord of Furore
The Flegrean Fields  
Gauro, Mt.-volcanic crater
geology, main entry -then  (2)   (3)   (4) 
Geo-Paleontology Park & Lab (Pietraroja)
gullies of Puglia (Belvedere 'lama')
Homo Erectus (Aeserniensis) 
Homo Neanderthalensis
iron, molten (used in Roman roads)
Kircher,  Mundus subterraneus & Naples

lighthouses in Naples
Lilio, the Gregorian calendar & the Castle
Majorana, Ettore
marine museums 
Marsili, active volcano
Mercalli, Giuseppe
Messina earthquake (1908)
Miranda-Manzolini (ceroplastics) (below this index)
natural concrete and Pozzuoli
natural sciences in Naples (1735-1845)

Nobile, Umberto
observatory, Capodimonte
Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp
palm tree pest
photography (early, in Naples)
Physics Museum at University
Pietrarsa Railway Museum
Porzio & Enlightenment Medicine
Pozzuoli (ICDP drilling-2010)
Proud to be a troglodyte 
Purple Turd Gorge
Subsoil of Naples, the (book)
Telesio (& the 'Scientific Method')
turtles (rescue center)
vaccinations in Bourbon Naples (1798)
Vesuvius, eruptions (recent) 
Vesuvius observatory
veterinary hospital 
volcanoes (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  (6) (7)
Whale of a Tale, A
What, Me Worry?
wind energy in Campania

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  supplemental article #1 in the Science Portal      added 27 Feb 2020

ceroplastics, anatomical modeling

nna Morandi Manzolini (1714–1774)  -  This, too, is art.

The number of Italian artists, architects, and musicians who went north to work for Imperial Russia in the 17-&-1800s is astounding. You will find in these pages a section devoted to the architects and comments in the entries about composers such as Paisiello and Cimarosa who did the same thing. You could call it a "brain drain" but it really wasn't; the artists were well-paid and generally stayed long enough to spread some of their artistic wealth to the Tsars and Tsarinas (a few stayed longer) and came home happy they had gone.

Here is one such artist, a woman in a highly unusual profession for anyone, much less for a woman in the late 1700s. Catherine II of Russia  asked Anna Morandi Manzolini of the University of Bologna to come to Russia to lecture in anatomy and in the use of precise anatomical wax models in the medical profession. Manzolini was acknowledged to be the greatest anatomical wax modeler in Europe. The Czarina also made Manzolini a member of the Russian Royal Scientific Association.

Little Anna Morandi started out modestly, headed for the traditional domestic lifestyle that most young girls were groomed for. Her parents had the means to send her to a school where she studied art. She took to sketching and painting and did well. Along the way, she ran into her future in the form of Giovanni Manzolini, also a talented artist and aiming for the medical profession. They fell in love, became childhood sweethearts, and got married. She was 20 and he was 24. After five years of marriage, she was the mother of six children. He had become a professor of anatomy at the university of Bologna and due to his own natural artistic ability was one of the founders of ceroplastics, the art of using wax models to teach anatomy. It seemed to happen quite naturally; she simply learned everything he knew about crafting such models and worked alongside of him at the university as an assistant lecturer. Again, this was in an age when women didn't do such things. They could paint and did, write and did, make music and did. But in order to do what she did, Anna had to dissect cadavers so she could model the anatomy correctly. By her own count she dissected about one-thousand cadavers in the course of her career. Husband and wife worked as a team for years and their reputation for turning out quality spread. I have seen no estimate of the number of ceroplatic models they turned out together or she, by herself, after her husband died. My guess is several hundred, spread throughout Europe as their reputation grew.

Her works ranged from the simple but useful the model of the hands and the human ear, as shown here (l & r).

to the incredibly complex:

The text that accompanies this image on the website of the Science Museum in Bologna says:
Fetus with umbilical cord and placenta attached. Wax, 55 x 44 cm [c. 22 x 17 inches]. This is a full-term fetus in which part of the anterior abdominal wall has been cut away to show the origins of the umbilical vessels, continuing out to display the umbilical cord and the placenta on the right. A portion of the amniotic membrane has been sectioned to show the vascular network of the placenta.
Anna's husband died from TB in 1755 at age 45. She was left with little means of support. The University of Bologna had to bend the rules, but she now became Lecturer in Anatomy at the university, a prestigious position, under her own name. She kept at her ceroplastics and became the most sought-after such provider in Europe of these absolutely essential tools for medical schools. Her work became the archetype of such models and the forerunners of those used even today. She received offers from other universities but turned them down. She stayed in Bologna and held lectures on anatomy, not just to doctors but to curious grand tourists as well. She imparted expert knowledge of anatomy derived from years of experience. And she was full of stories of how she or she and her husband had, for example, discovered several previously unknown anatomical parts, including the termination of the oblique muscle of the eye. She was the first person to reproduce minute body parts in wax, including capillary vessels and nerves, and her work was so skillful that, by many accounts, onlookers found themselves asking "Is that a model or the real thing?"

She certainly didn't get rich. In 1769, five years before her death, she had to sell everything. She had spent every cent on her life's
her books, her tools, and whatever models she had kept. It all went. The gentleman who bought the collection promised he would take care of it and provided her with a monthly stipend to live on as well as a place to live. He apparently kept his word, because at least that collection has found its way back, after 250 years, to the Anatomical Museum of the University of Bologna. The museum, itself, has a
list of 60 of her works, very few of which (5 or 6) are actually on display. They have index cards with photos of many of the others. The items on this page are from their on-line display. It is not clear (at least to me) how many of these models still exist (a lot can happen to a clump of wax in 250 years!) and which ones are on display in Bologna or anywhere else, for that matter, perhaps in medical museums in places that bought them originally.

Anna did two models that are less anatomical than they are "human interest". One is a wax self-portrait in which she shows herself dissecting a brain (image, top right). The other is another
wax bust, posed in similar fashion, of her husband a tribute to her childhood sweetheart and her partner.

Anna Morandi Manzolini died in Bologna in 1774 at the age of 60.

English-language bibliography, sources:

Messbarger, Rebecca, The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2010.

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