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Framing Mortality: Medical Illustrations of Human Bone Anatomy in William Cheselden's Osteographia

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dc.contributor.advisor Graham, Lisa Jane
dc.contributor.advisor Hayton, Darin Farley, Helen 2014-08-01T17:25:15Z 2014-08-01T17:25:15Z 2014
dc.description.abstract William Cheselden's Osteographia (1733) opens with a frontispiece image recalling the imagery of Renaissance saint paintings, yet the title page engraving of a camera obscura promotes the empirical technologies of the eighteenth-century. While in Renaissance anatomy man reigned as God's Supreme Being, by the eighteenth century natural laws returned man to his status as a mortal beast in nature. Cheselden's text looks to reconcile the Christian undertones of Renaissance imagery with an enlightened epistemology of the natural world. Cheselden's bone representations battled Enlightenment concern about the human ability to perceive nature. This thesis follows the Osteographia from production to its reception and demonstrates that the book retains a reverence for nature despite its promotion of Enlightenment technology and method. The first section discusses Cheselden's production process and the natural origins of the specimens. Cheselden's text re-imagined the mortal objects into a new order of scientific inquiry, one guided by aesthetic contemplation. In order to combat the limitations of the human senses, Cheselden promoted his use of the camera obscura. The next section discusses the camera obscura as an "artificial eye." In Cheselden's epistemology, technology redeems our limitations and re-creates our divine status. The third section analyzes the bone illustrations as dialectic between reason and spirituality. While the images classify the human form and replace Christian symbols of death with symbols of progress, they are arranged in a narrative of growth and decay, revealing a preoccupation with the teleology in our human frames. The Osteographia was a commercial failure. The disappointing sales caused Cheselden to break down the text to sell as individual prints. The last section examines the reception of the Osteographia through the lens of Cheselden's harshest critic. The print market changed the text from a scientific reference guide to a set of artistic prints. Cheselden's investigation of the limitations of our mortal frames and his attempt to achieve a divine perfection through progress endures as art. The images today remind us that progress is a means to compensate for the mortality in our bones. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Cheselden, William, 1688-1752. Osteographia
dc.subject.lcsh Bones -- Anatomy -- History -- 18th century
dc.subject.lcsh Medical illustration -- History -- 18th century
dc.title Framing Mortality: Medical Illustrations of Human Bone Anatomy in William Cheselden's Osteographia en_US
dc.type Thesis (B.A.) en_US
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