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Exhibition at Fondazione Prada: "Cere anatomiche: La Specola di Firenze | David Cronenberg"

Discover the captivating world of anatomical waxes and the visionary artistry of David Cronenberg at the Fondazione Prada in Milan.


TorreFondazione Prada, MilanArchitectural project by OMA

Photo: Bas Princen 2018

Courtesy Fondazione Prada


Milan, 23 March 2023 – Fondazione Prada proudly presents its latest exhibition, "Cere anatomiche: La Specola di Firenze | David Cronenberg," running from 24 March to 17 July 2023 at its Milan venue. This extraordinary project is a collaborative effort between Fondazione Prada, La Specola of the Museum of Natural History and Museum System of the University of Florence, and acclaimed Canadian film director and screenwriter, David Cronenberg.


Courtesy Fondazione Prada


"Cere anatomiche" (Anatomical waxes) is part of Fondazione Prada's ongoing research initiative, which aims to bring forth significant collections from 'guest museums' and offer fresh interpretations of cultural heritage within a contemporary context. This unique exhibition unfolds in two interconnected parts, featuring a selection of thirteen eighteenth-century ceroplastic works from the esteemed Florentine museum's collection. Specifically, the focus lies on the representation of the female body for scientific purposes. Accompanying the exhibition is a new short film, "Four Unloved Women, Adrift on a Purposeless Sea, Experience the Ecstasy of Dissection," directed by David Cronenberg and shot at La Specola. The film interweaves digital editing techniques with the exhibition, presenting an alternative narrative that explores Cronenberg's enduring fascination with the human body, its potential mutations, and its capacity for transformation.


The exhibition, "Cere anatomiche," is a double contribution where scientific and artistic narratives converge, each presented in independent set-ups meticulously designed by the creative agency Random Studio. The upper floor of Fondazione Prada's Podium, its main exhibition space, houses La Specola's waxes with a scientific, museum-like approach. In stark contrast, the ground floor becomes the stage where the director's imagery merges with the displayed works, giving birth to an enigmatic process of metamorphosis.


David Cronenberg poignantly captures the essence of La Specola's wax figures, stating, "In their effort to create certain partially dissected full figures whose body language and facial expressions did not display pain or agony, did not suggest they were undergoing torture or punishment or even surgery, they happened to produce living characters who seemed to be in the throes of ecstasy." Cronenberg's contemplation of the sculptures' ecstatic quality serves as the foundation for his exploration of the dissection process itself, invoking a sense of almost religious rapture.


According to Miuccia Prada, President of Fondazione Prada, "The museum and the artist thus propose complementary visions to the public. The result is, at the same time, an art exhibition, an anatomy lesson, a video about desire, and an operation of educational experimentation with which we intend to tell the value of a collection and its history, reveal the contribution of creative thinking in knowledge, and promote interest in scientific studies."


Building upon its dedication to scientific inquiry, Fondazione Prada continues to investigate scientific knowledge within a broader cultural framework. "Cere anatomiche" follows the multidisciplinary project "Human Brains," which delved into the foundations and new developments in neuroscience. Furthermore, this exhibition provides an opportunity for profound reflection on corporeality, following the thought-provoking "Useless Bodies?" exhibition by Elmgreen & Dragset, which explored the role and significance of the human body in contemporary society.


La Specola, one of Europe's oldest science museums, founded in 1775, is currently closed for redevelopment. It houses over 3.5 million animals, the world's most extensive collection of eighteenth-century anatomical waxes, and the unique collection of Sicilian wax modeller Gaetano Giulio Zumbo (1656-1701). The museum boasts 1,400 pieces of anatomical waxworks created between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, providing an educational-scientific treatise on human anatomy without the need for direct observation of actual corpses.


"Cere anatomiche" showcases four reclining female figures from the Lymphatic System and Obstetrics sections, alongside nine intricate waxworks on gestation from the Obstetrics collection. These works, produced during the Age of Enlightenment for didactic purposes, are accompanied by a series of seventy-two exhibition copies of anatomical drawings housed in nine vitrines. Notably, the exhibition includes La Specola's renowned Venus, a rare model with detachable parts renowned for its exquisite beauty. Through his short film, David Cronenberg liberates the female wax models from their academic function as medical demonstrations and educational tools, revealing their dynamic and unexpected dimensions, thereby evoking new emotional responses, intellectual impressions, and intense feelings.


To complement the exhibition, Fondazione Prada publishes an extensive and illustrated volume designed by Irma Boom. The book features two introductions by Miuccia Prada and Marco Benvenuti, President of the Florence University Museum System, a statement by David Cronenberg, and enlightening conversations between Claudia Corti and Mario Mainetti, as well as Eva Sangiorgi and David Cronenberg. Additionally, a series of newly commissioned essays by esteemed writers delve into the remarkable heritage and contemporary relevance of La Specola's collection, and explore David Cronenberg's visionary perspective on the human body, highlighting the intrinsic connection between scientific research and creative practice.

Join Fondazione Prada on a captivating journey through the realms of art, anatomy, and imagination. "Cere anatomiche: La Specola di Firenze | David Cronenberg" promises to be an immersive experience that transcends traditional boundaries, offering visitors a renewed appreciation for the value of historical collections, the pursuit of knowledge, and the vital interplay between science and creativity.

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