Bologna: 18th Century Dissection Game

Have you ever played the game Operation, “the whacky doctors game where you are the whacky doctor” as a kid?

At the University of Bologna, there is the Palazzo Poggi Museo which features Clemente Susini’s “Venerina.” This replica shows Venerina in the last moments of her life before she “voluptuously” [their words, not mine] surrenders herself to death. This “effect” was supposed to show sensitivity at the time. The organs are removable to simulate dissection and there is a fetus in the womb to demonstrate the reproductive power of a woman.

“The alienating effect that the statue produces by combining anatomical detail, crude and repulsive, with a harmonious and sensual litheness, is the result of a precise scientific choice: sensitivity is an essential quality of matter; sensitivity – with its wide range of manifestations, including the sensuality of the Venerina who surrenders herself to death – lies at the core of the physical and physiological organisation of man.”


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