Celebrating a century of the Anatomical Institute (1922 – 2022) and eight centuries of the University of Padua, the Institute of Human Anatomy becomes embellished with a work by artist Milo Manara.
The Institute of Human Anatomy of Padua has a long and brilliant tradition. The institute has witnessed a succession of some of the most renowned anatomists in history, from Bruno da Longobucco to Andrea Vesalio and up to Giovan Battista Morgagni. The Anatomical Institute, erected in 1922, revived this tradition thanks to a project by Fondelli near the Giustinianeo hospital, which continues to represent an inexhaustible source of resources for anatomical research and training. The Fallopian Hall, located inside the Institute of Human Anatomy, is home to a splendid anatomical theatre that continues to host the morphological practice of human cadaveric dissection.
The Atrium of the Institute houses anatomical specimens collected from the “Museo G.B. Morgagni”, while the upper floor includes laboratories and the library. Connecting rooms link the institute to its morphological tradition through the monumental staircase, as a proud testimony of the architecture of the early twentieth century.
With the work of Milo Manara, the mere succession of steps becomes a connecting element between the anatomical rooms in the basement, the classrooms on the ground floor, to the laboratories on the first floor. The work offers a conceptual flow between historical anatomy practices and advanced morphological sciences, transforming it into a place between art and science.
With eight hundred years of history, we wanted to pay homage to the city and its relationship with figurative art. In particular, we wanted to integrate drawings and paintings with anatomical learning. The depictions of Vesalius during his dissections, the anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci, up to the seated nude toward the 1511 study of the right arm by Michelangelo Buonarroti.
The work stretches across three walls of the stairwell located in the Institute of Human Anatomy (via Falloppio 50), for a total of approximately 225 square meters along with three flights of stairs and the ceiling. The technique used is called Tattoo Wall, which allows for images to be directly transferred on a surface resulting in a final effect similar to fresco painting.
From the bottom to the top, the mural developed into a symbol of the death-life continuum like a combination of knowledge-care. It starts from the ramp on the wall that leads from the autopsy rooms (places of knowledge) to the classroom floor. The second wall leads to the laboratories, intended as parts of the building where research takes place and knowledge is formed. Finally, we arrive at the highest level of the staircase leading to the ceiling, where the donation of organs is represented, as they offer improvement for the capacity of care.
Finally, the ceiling where, in the reinterpretation of the sky of Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, a primordial Adam and Eve are placed from which the circle of life after death begins.
In the first wall the wonderful phrase “MORS UBI GAUDET SUCCURRERE VITAE” is depicted in an allegorical key, referring to the ancient anatomical theatre of the University of Padua, where, by studying the bodies of the dead, one can heal the living.
On the second wall, Manara was inspired by the title page of the sixteenth-century book by Andreas Vesalius. Some of the most important teachers of the University have been added to the image over the centuries, such as Eustachio and Falloppio, followed by their contemporaries. The third wall demonstrates how today’s modern University is even more committed than ever in training new doctors, starting from its ancient anatomical theatre. All this casts humanity towards a hypothetical eternity. The metaphysical illustration on the ceiling, derived from the ancient tradition, is a reproduction of Giotto’s starry vault updated with a vision of modern telescopes.
THE CHARACTERS REPRESENTED
Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682- 1771) was a professor of anatomy and the founder of contemporary pathological anatomy who said, “It is not possible to visualize the nature and causes of any disease without confirmation of the cadaveric sections.” In his production and teachings, he refers to the Vitruvian man, placing man at the centre and the bases of architecture for the training of doctors.
Antonio Maria Valsalva (1666 – 1723) doctor, anatomist and surgeon, was Marcello Malpighi’s favourite student. Valsalva taught Giovanni Battista Morgagni. He graduated magna cum laude from the Archiginnasio of Bologna with a thesis entitled “On the superiority of experimental doctrine.” Valsalva knew studies of his time only allowed doctors to imagine what the true cause of the illness was. He knew it wasn’t enough to merely research the symptoms of disease and the effectiveness of the therapy, but rather the careful examine the sick must include the study of the alterations of the diseased parts of the corpse.
Bartolomeo Eustachio (tra il 1500 e il 1510 – 1574), an anatomist, intricately examined corpses to understand diseases. His most famous work is the Tabulae Anatomical of 1552 which gave him the title of “Prince of Anatomy.”
Gabriele Falloppio (1523 – 1562), accepted the chairs of anatomy, surgery and botany from the University of Padua in 1551. His most well-known pupils include Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente, Marcello Capra, Antonio Minutoli and Volcher Koyter. He was the author of several anatomical discoveries and greatly contributed to the studies of osteology, myology, and splanchnology. In addition to being one of the most important scientists in the history of anatomy, he also made important contributions to comparative anatomy, botany, physiology, pharmacology and thermal medicine.
Andrea Vesalius (1514-1564) is the founder of modern anatomy and the first to propose the need for an overall rewriting of the description of the human body, achieved by the dissection of corpses and an accurate critique of ancient knowledge. He wrote the fundamental book for medicine De Humani Corporis Fabbrica. Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) dedicated about twenty years of his life to the study of the human body divided into three periods: in 1480 – 1490, he studied muscles and bones in Milan; in 1502 – 1507, he studied the mechanics of the body in Florence; and in 1508 – 1513, he analysed the internal organs and blood circulation while in Milan and Rome, becoming the author of anatomical illustrations that are still used today.
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564), whose drawings show the anatomical interest of the master that translates, for example, into muscle fibres outlined in detail. The artist referred to the human body as a mortal veil with divine intentions. Anatomy became an instrument of knowledge that represented the body in its perfect form based on empirical knowledge made possible by the dissections of cadavers.