Anatomy, Flesh, and Resurrection

By: Ilenia Colon Mendoza  

The University of Valladolid was the first Castilian institution where anatomy was taught from human dissection. In 1551 Bernardino Montaña de Monserrate published in Valladolid, Spain El Libro de la anathomia del hombre, the first book in Spanish to address the subject. By the time of its publication the theories of the book were outdated but the illustrated plates were copies of the images found in Vesalius’ influential De humanis corporis fabrica. Like Montaña Juan Valverde and Dionisio Daza Chacón also published in Spanish their respective books: Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano (Rome, 1556) and Práctica y teorica de la chirugía (Valladolid, 1580). The anatomical accuracy of the seventeenth-century Cristos yacentes by Gregorio Fernández and Francisco Fermín relied on these Spanish anatomical treatises because they would have been more accessible to artists in their native city of Valladolid. It was through the use of these publications that the body of Christ was accurately rendered as a dead body that would later resurrect. The Catholic belief in the resurrection of the flesh ties directly to its anatomical representation. The focus on Christ’s physical suffering connects to the Eucharistic meaning of the work and Counter-Reformation devotional practices. The lacerated body of Christ with its wounds are noted by contemporary mystics as windows to paradise that serve to elevate the viewer to higher state of empathetic contemplation. Scientific anatomical representation was used in service of the Church to produce a work that used verisimilitude and hyperreality to engage the viewer.

Catholic Anatomy Art
Religious Foundations
Virtual Lightning Talk

Dr. Ilenia Colon Mendoza

Associate Professor of Art History, School of Visual Art and Design, University of Central Florida, United States
United States