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5 Beautiful Monsters: How Deformity Can Be Elegant

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, an analysis of two seemingly unrelated preparations shows that the mostly tacit quest for beauty and perfection by the makers of the eighteenth-century Leiden anatomical collections could simultaneously offer a way to deal with the ugly, the deformed, and the monstrous, and that their aesthesis-based approach included elements, such as poetry, we would not recognize as 'scientific' nowadays. Analysing the materiality of these preparations clarifies the first as being a representative of the complicated and changing relation between humans and animals in the eighteenth century, and, studied through the combined perspectives of aesthesis and modern aesthetic theory, it will clarify the role of anatomical preparations in general and that of monstrous specimens in particular. The chapter shows that, even by the end of the eighteenth century, looking at, and the making of, anatomical preparations, like drawing, remained simultaneous acts of seeking beauty, selection, and accentuation.

Keywords: aesthesis-based approach; anatomical preparations; eighteenth-century Leiden anatomical collections; monstrous specimens; poetry



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