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More Organs Mean More Human!

Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life not only includes royal wedding garb and wallpapers, but also a set of “dissect it yourself” flap prints from 1613 for the doctor-in-training or morbid enthusiast in your life. Novices could have a look at this model of “their own” entrails without the stench of the anatomy theater. But unlike the real human body, these figures aren’t exactly anatomically correct. The lungs, hearts, livers, and stomachs of these early pop-ups were intended to be removable (according to the accompanying manual), and they have curiously redistributed themselves over the ensuing years.

While Prints and Drawings preparator Mardy Sears was inserting folded paper hinges to keep the flaps of the large Adam figure propped open for the exhibition, she discovered some unexpected items. A small bulge under Adam’s thigh turned out to be his lungs, long believed missing! A pair of needle-nosed tweezers soon turned up his liver as well. Two hearts were also hidden inside Adam, leaving him literally in possession of his companion Eve’s heart. The sheets’ elaborate construction creates a surprising amount of depth for an early modern work of paper engineering. (The engraved front layer had parts cut open into flaps. After a few additional flaps were added, then the bulk of the organ flaps were supplied as etchings glued on from behind. Finally, the whole package was glued down at the edges onto a stronger backing paper with letterpress headings.) No wonder a few organs went into hiding . . .

Read more about these fascinating prints in the exhibition catalogue, and at Art in Print!