New temporary exhibition  “Notes for a journey into the beauty of the human body”: open till Sep 24, 2023

The Pavia University History Museum invites you on a wonderful trip of discovery of the human body!

The new temporary exhibition: “Notes for a journey into the beauty of the human body”, inaugurated on the 9th of June 2023 on the occasion of popular national event Archives night, will be open for visits until the 24th of September 2023.

Beautiful papers and documents, usually not on display but hidden in archive folders, will testify to an extraordinary centuries-long journey aimed at trying to capture and describe the beauty of the human body and of its structures.

The scientists who embarked on this journey strongly felt the need to draw maps of it and to communicate the results of their research and observations. Therefore, despite this often being a lonely cruise, their most precious allies were, most often, the artists. This is evidenced by the splendid woodcut and chalcographic plates that enrich the history of anatomy, of which the drawings illustrating the “De humani corporis fabrica” (by the Flemish Andrea Vesalius, 1543) are a wonderful example.

The exhibition will display various works by Antonio Scarpa – including his original drawings – alongside sketches by his pupil Bartolomeo Panizza and highly evocative plates drawn in pencil and ink by Camillo Golgi (with help from his wife, Lina Aletti) illustrating the morphology of nerve cells observed under a microscope thanks to the Black Reaction (a technique of his invention, which turns 150 years old in 2023 and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1906).

The journey to discover the human body did not remain enclosed within the confines of the initial individual effort: notebooks and accordion booklets allowed scholars to present their discoveries and observations to colleagues; interesting examples are housed in the Camillo Golgi Museum archive and will be part of the exhibition.

Scientific illustration still held great importance in recent times, allowing to communicate, through ad hoc images, details that could not be captured with other types of representation. A private collection of beautiful modern drawings, made with various techniques by scientific illustrator Gian Battista Ricci, will also be on display. Ricci combined his passion for art, which he always nurtured, with his scientific interest, born of University medical studies; his techniques include working with pencils, watercolor, gouache, pastels and oil colours.

A collaboration with the orthopedic institute of the San Matteo hospital in Pavia for the representation of sequences of surgical operations was the starting point of Ricci’s illustrator carrier; requests by Corriere della sera (one of the foremost Italian newspapers) for illustrations concerning scientific and medical topics (Corriere Medico, Corriere salute and Medicine Illustrated) followed soon after. Pharmaceutical companies, scientific institutes (Tumor Institute) and private individuals also became frequent clients of his.

The exhibition is curated by Lucio Fregonese, Maria Carla Garbarino, Gian Battista Ricci and Ester Maria Bernardi, with the collaboration of Giada Maria Giunta, Claudia Ribera and Letizia Villotta

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