The civilisation of anatomy: the genre of literary anatomies in Seventeenth-century Italy


Institutional Communication Service

20 October 2021

The "Civilisation of Anatomy": the genre of Literary anatomies in Seventeenth-century Italy - "La civiltà dell'anatomia": il genere delle Anatomie letterarie nell'Italia del Seicento [100012_204399] gets underway. The project is headed by Linda Bisello, research professor at the Institute of Italian Studies (Faculty of Communication Culture and Society). It relies on collaboration with a research group of the same Institute and with external partners to reinforce the interdisciplinary approach of the work.

Supported by the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research, the research plan focuses on the relationship between medical knowledge and the humanities in the early modern age, with reference to the modelling effects of anatomy on all forms of knowledge and on the arts of that period. The research starts from the collection, which began in 2015, of a set of texts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from different literary categories, but united by the aggregating title of "anatomies", and previously not studied as an organic genre by the Italian critical tradition. The examination is accompanied by the study of the ways of adoption and reception of the anatomical method through the literary and artistic Academies, a concrete crossroads of biographical experiences, and a historical vehicle for the diffusion of a modern view of reality that has its origin in the direct, "autopsy" vision of anatomy. The objective of the project is to demonstrate that the texts in the set - collected in an "Anatomical Library" published in open access among the digital collections of the Museo Galileo of Florence, institutional Project Partner - assimilate the anatomical method in their deepest layers, adopting the method of analysis (i.e. the order of dissection) and promoting it as a criterion of knowledge and text organisation.

As Prof. Stefano Prandi, member of the Project and Director of the Institute of Italian Studies (Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society - Università della Svizzera italiana) states: "The project has matured in the context of collaborations already in place in our Institute, and reflects the interdisciplinary vocation at the basis of our plural and open conception of Italian civilisation, where arts and different forms of knowledge traditionally engage in dialogue. Therefore, we are pleased to cooperate with the prestigious institution of the Museo Galileo of Florence, which will publish, among its free-access collections, texts that are the primary document of research at the crossroads between literature, history of medical thought, visual arts and history of language".

Stressing the relevance of the recognition, the Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, Prof. Luca M. Visconti, highlights two main merits of the research project: "First, the project allows us to understand better how medicine influenced the culture of the 16th-17th centuries. This understanding connects us with our present day, in which the pandemic has seen the emergence of a biomedical model of managing society. It confirms that any research, even if aimed at reconstructing the past, must and can question the present. The second merit of the project concerns its ability to execute the 'third mandate' of our Faculty, which is to share and disseminate our research outside the academic environment. The partnership with the Museo Galileo and its open access policy guarantees a wide circulation of the fruits of the work carried out over the next four years".

Marco Ciardi, Scientific Director of the Museo Galileo and Professor of History of Science at the Department of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Florence, also reiterates the importance of this collaboration: "The relationship between science, literature, arts and philosophy has not only been one of the hallmarks of modernity but represents one of the essential tools for planning the future, starting from schools, where initiatives such as this could also represent a model for stimulating and instructive educational paths".


The following artwork can be found in the attached pdf:

  • Giulio Casseri, Tabulae anatomicae (1627), Francofurti, 1632;
  • Pomponio Tartaglia, Notomia spirituale dell'uomo, p. II, Perugia, 1647