Strong Spirits

Wenceslaus Hollar after Leonoardo da Vinci, Study of two Women, 1645, Etching, 84×115 mm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Links between the project of replicating and perfecting nature through alchemy and the parallel endeavors of the visual arts have existed since ancient times as William Newman has shown in his seminal study (Promethean Ambitions 2004). The claim of alchemy and especially of Paracelsus, however, to not only reproducing and perfecting living bodies with the help of new technologies, but to also creating artificial bodies through art and science, transcended the scope of the pictorial arts.

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Weak Flesh

Peter Paul Rubens, Callisto, 1613, Oil on Canvas, 202 x 305 cm, Kassel, Gemäldegalerie

The most fascinating example of an artist concerned with the human body as an object of both medicine and art is Lady Arundel’s Antwerp acquaintance Peter Paul Rubens. In his Theoretical Sketchbooks he offers a comprehensive theory of the human figure. Continue reading “Weak Flesh”

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