Historic & Contemporary Wunderkammer
19th Century Papier-Mâché Fetal Skull
The Fetal Skull is unsigned, but it could well be a non-commercialised prototype by Dr. Auzoux. The quality and accuracy of this skull as well as the subtle and delicate details make this life-sized example very special. It is an extremely rare example with an unpainted finish and amazing patina. I'm surprised this delicate and important object survived all these years.
Medical student Louis Auzoux (1797-1880) was frustrated with the shortage of human corpses available for studying anatomy. Using his own secret papier-mâché mixture, he developed 'dissectible' models, which could be used again and again. Later, he also created models of animals and plants. Introducing papier-mâché as a modelling material was a radical change from earlier modelling techniques. In previous centuries, anatomists and artists made their anatomical models using wax.
While wax models could reproduce anatomical details very accurately, the material was very expensive and too fragile to be handled frequently because the wax would lose its shape. Papier-mâché, on the other hand, was sturdy enough to produce detachable models that could be used again and again, at less than a tenth of the price of similar wax models.
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