Currently reading : Ivory Anatomies
Born in Nuremberg to a family of ivory turners, Stephan Zick (1639-1715) was a German ivory carver who is said to have originated the miniature anatomical manikin. Many of these models depict pregnant women, and the intricacy of their detailed bodies–with removable bellies covering miniature fetuses and tiny intestines, livers, and hearts–is completely engrossing, especially given their size of about 5 inches long.
Although the exact purpose for the these models is not currently known, many of these objects were owned by doctors, and many believe they were medical tools, used in the treatment of ailing pregnant women and new mothers, as well as objects for a sort of “curio cabinet.” Part of the fascination I have with these manikins is in their doll-ness, their simultaneous adherence to realistic articulation of faces and bodies and their stylized anatomical mapping. This notion of the body as a plaything, of an a man removing and replacing internal organs as one might put together a puzzle, is just so strangely macabre.
Many of Zick’s figurines come lying in a wooden “coffin” of sorts but rarely seem dead. Some raise their arms to cover their faces, others feature delicately articulated lips, curled into smiles. Always, there is a sense, when playing with these figures, of taking apart passive bodies. While there is, of course, an element of discovery, of scientific revelation, there also seems to be an element of power, both in owning these incredible objects and to controlling their female/expectant/recumbent/expensive bodies.
You can read more about these ivories: here