The Septem Septum Uteri Series:
Dwarfed, Bounteous, Aqueous, Avian, Virtuous
The foundations of modern anatomy were established during the anatomical renaissance, but the decomposition of corpses was a serious problem. Therefore, medical schools sought ways to continue teaching their students when cadavers were not available. A graphic teaching aid was developed in Bologna and Padua -- seemingly accurate anatomical studies made of wax, a material that needed no preservation, yet closely resembled human flesh.
In medieval medical teachings, the uterus was thought to have seven cells or chambers; in the three on the right male embryos developed, the left three were for female embryos, and the center one was for hermaphrodites. Numerology was a logical extension of my curiosity in these early tracts, leading me to wonder why seven chambers? Such a mystical interpretation of the construction of the uterus reminded me of the many peculiar groupings of the number seven; virtues, sins, sacraments, wonders of the world, locks from Samson’s hair, bodies of alchemy, days of the week, Snow White’s dwarfs. In a series of seven anatomical waxes that closely follow the structural diagram from the medieval manuscript, I explore the parallel relationship between the uterus and the number seven.