Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Frederik Ruysch

A Diorama by Frederik Ruysch
Frederik Ruysch (1638 - 1731) Dutch anatomist and botanist, known for his skills in preserving dead body parts, and for his highly artistic and fantastical creations of dioramas using the preserved parts. He was also one of the first to describe the vomeronasal organ of snakes, the valves in the lymphatic system and the central artery of the eye. Ruysch's membrane, named after him, is a thin layer of capillaries behind the internal layer of the retina. Though the main goal of Ruysch's dissections was to study anatomy, he had an artistic side in him which made him create highly original and fantastical arrangements of various body parts in symbolic settings, with many moral and philosophical quotations attached to them. Peter the Great, czar of Russia, once bought an entire collection from him. His daughter, Rachel Ruysch, was a skillful and esteemed painter of flowers, who also helped her father in creating his dioramas. Ruysch devised methods of preservation of dead bodies and parts that were unparalleled, and which he guarded in secret and would not reveal till his death. His preparations, many of which were lost, make for some of the most curious and original assemblages ever put together.


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