Anna Morandi Manzolini: mother, artist, and anatomist
Her entire life, Bolognese sculptress Anna Morandi Manzolini (1714-1774) focused her passion on studying human anatomy.
“We imagine young women from good families in the 1700s as having received a traditional middle-class education,” Serena Bersani explains in her book “101 donne che hanno fatto grande Bologna” (Newton Compton, Rome 2012), “which included singing, embroidering, and fine arts; we imagine them in their ateliers in front of a canvas on an easel, or about to mold wax into a graceful portrait.”
That was not Anna Morandi Manzolini. She overturned “the canon, starting with her marriage to Francesco Manzolini. They had both started out as artists, but ended embracing the study of anatomical sciences. They dissected bodies in their home, to examine every organ and hidden part.” Their domestic study – a room where they inspected muscles, nerves, and vessels – was “a legal medicine institute before anything like that ever existed.”
At the same time, this extraordinary artist and anatomopathologist – renowned in all of Europe for her ability in “reproducing with precision anatomical parts that no one else had been able to research before” – raised six children and “always put her private life before her carrier, settling for a place as professor of Anatomy at the Archiginnasio, where she even had the option to not teach.”
Here are some of her most interesting works.