The Parturient - Relation between art, science and history

The Parturient


When on a trip to Madrid where I go to see art, the interest to see the Prado or other art museums that we can call classic is in the background is for some reason. The exhibition Arte y carne, inaugurated months ago, was a goal to be achieved. I had to attend this exhibition, and if possible, as it finally was, to be able to acquire its publication. The trip to Madrid proposed by the subject of Painting of the Spanish Golden Age was the opportunity that I finally had to be able to see this exhibition. It was the main reason I went on the trip. Just knowing this, it is already evident why I have selected this artwork.
The fact that this artwork, and the exhibition itself, draws so much attention to me, is due to my interest in what I once called the Scientific Art. Scientific art is the set of artworks where science and technology is necessary for its execution, and I do not refer to the science of perspective or technology of materials, to put examples, but to properly scientific matters, as it can be physics, chemistry, astronomy, paleontology, robotics, or in this case, biology. It is impossible to perform this kind of artworks without a knowledge of the various scientific subjects, and this artwork is no exception.
It is a sculpture in wax that would not have been possible without a sculptor, but also without the help of someone who knew of anatomy, in this case, a dissector, named Ignacio Lacaba. Thus, under the direction of this dissector, the sculptors Juan Cháez and Luigi Franceschi made this artwork, which depicts a dead woman with an open abdomen, where it can be seen that the fetus has already reached nine months. These types of artworks were done with didactic function, and are very realistic. Apart from the anatomical details of the interior of the body, there are also details such as hair.
Based on these data I consider that this artwork must be confronted from a scientific perspective. The artwork shows the human anatomy with great realism, and for this it is necessary the previous knowledge of this matter. The fetus is observed with the umbilical cord, and also the intestines of the dead woman are seen.
The artwork fulfills its didactic function, but says more than that. Taking into account the period, late eighteenth century, at this time medical knowledge was not very advanced, and the fact that this was created shows a great interest in this field. The modeling was based on a real corpse, which although it is unknown who the model is, it is thought to be a young woman who died in an accident. Both sculptors, or modelers, worked with the body, while the dissector directed the steps.
If we consider that the woman who is represented comes from a real corpse, I want to mention that for some reason, seeing the face of the woman reminded me of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Bernini. It really has nothing to do with space, time or subject, but the position reminded me of that sculpture. Although the Parturient is dead, the position is quite similar to my opinion.




For me the union between art and science is the best that can offer the human being in its creative side. Science is necessary for life, and I consider this type of art a way of getting this knowledge in a way that is in a way less abstract as can be mathematics. With this artwork, and the rest, we also see something that if we see in reality it would produce fear or disgust: a corpse. When seeing these artworks we see corpses, but they are false, they are made of wax. If these corpses were real we would have another sensation. In fact, there is such an exhibition, called Bodies: The Exhibition, which are dissected human bodies, obviously from donors. I have never visited it but I would like to, and I am quite sure that the feeling will be different from those of these wax sculptures.
But even so, I think it could not be compared at one point either. To see the Parturient in that position, exactly like the artwork of wax, being a real corpse, would be more shocking. It is precisely because of this fear of seeing a corpse, fear of death. And there are some people who feel disgusted to see how we are inside. But it is what we are, whether we like it or not, and these sculptures are proof of it, they remind us of how we are. We are mortal, and someday we will be less than what is shown in these sculptures.