La deutsche Vita (Deutsche Fassung): 2 (Electric Sheep) (German Edition)
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Bach spent his most productive years in Leipzig, but was not particularly celebrated until the mid s. When the cult took off it became embarrassing that the city could not even show his grave. So it was convenient that in a candidate skeleton was discovered in a promising location. To help assess the bones His recruited Seffner, whom he may have known from anatomy classes for artists.
His not only followed others in determining on cadavers the average thicknesses of the tissue on different parts of the face.
He also brought in Seffner to model a face over a cast of the skull Fig. Pioneering the reconstructions that are now prominent in forensics and anthropology, His had Seffner both use paintings and engravings of Bach Fig. His and Seffner had worked well together. A The skull; B the oil painting of Bach in the St Thomas School, Leipzig; C the bust Seffner modelled on a cast; D the bust, in profile, with left half removed to show the relations of the soft parts to the bone.
Based on this mutual admiration, His or another family member probably commissioned the bust for their home in or shortly before This one was designed to represent His's professional identity and attainment, as he wished these to be remembered in the first place by his family, and then by colleagues and friends. But it is also about collaboration with Seffner. He and His were united by a deep interest in modelling and a striving for authenticity through exact anatomical reconstruction in three dimensions. These shared commitments, and the priorities of His as sitter and patron, will explain the significance of his contemplative pose and the unprecedented use of an embryo model.
Comparison with other works will further contextualize these choices. Portraits of success, they all show senior figures. Portraits of His and his colleagues. His is shown taking a break from drawing at the microscope. The books are well bound — no author or title can be read — and what may be two model embryos stand behind and just below his right shoulder. In this print, which belonged to Werner Spalteholz, the anatomist who co-organized the gift, the bottom margin features a remarque of the Bach skull and bust.
The sitters are all lost in contemplation, but while the rest look into space or meet the viewer's gaze, His is looking down, and so more distanced even without the glasses he usually wore. Unlike the others, he is absorbed in a particular object, to accommodate which Seffner sculpted a half-length figure rather than the standard head and shoulders. In contrast to Begas, Seffner did not generally add props that might distract from the head.
But His not only holds something in his right hand, the whole work is organized around its contemplation. Contemplation is a standard trope in portraits of thinkers, and anatomists had long been shown with symbolically significant body parts: arms, brains and especially skulls, the most obvious memento mori Fig. He is not showing it off, but holding it close. So though the eyes and coat draw attention to his right hand, the object is not an attribute, but arranged for him. We cannot see it well unless we go near and also look down, a distinctively sculptural effect.
We are invited to identify with the man in examining his work, but he claims our interest first. This inevitably implies a contrast to Haeckel, who, though also formally sculpted several times, was more often caricatured as a showman or prophet. More likely, he was warning his successors, as they tested hypotheses about the physiology of development, not to lose touch with the reconstruction and contemplation of form. What, then, of the object His contemplates?
The range of accessories used to signal identities had increased in the nineteenth century. Joining anatomists with body parts and botanists with plants, life scientists were now depicted with organisms, mathematicians with plaster models of surfaces and chemists with molecules. The British anatomist Richard Owen was painted with the pearly nautilus he had studied and photographed with the moa skeleton he reconstructed from a single bone and with the bone.
Old markers of learning accommodated newcomers: His's official seventieth-birthday portrait shows him with a microscope against a book-lined wall Fig.
Objects related to embryos had occasionally been included in portraits before Seffner's time. In the late eighteenth century man-midwives, the surgeons moving in on high-class childbirth, were the professionals most concerned with the human gravid uterus. Many portrayals avoided references that might undermine their search for respectability; in Mason Chamberlin's widely-reproduced painting William Hunter even holds a muscle-man model so as to hide its genitals Fig. But they do not show the embryos much younger and less obviously human on which the new embryology would focus — and hardly could have done, since anatomists represented these in any detail only from around Portraits of the man-midwife William Hunter.
Even for most of the nineteenth century, when embryology flourished, embryos were not used as accessories. The most famous embryologist, Karl Ernst von Baer , though often pictured and sculpted, was never shown with either an embryo or the mammalian egg he discovered. This term began to enter general use around mid century, but the science was still not an independent university discipline in ; it was practised mainly by anatomists and zoologists.
By contrast, His campaigned for institutional recognition. A muscleman model featured in a portrait of an anatomist as long ago as , but nineteenth-century scientists tended to scorn models as merely didactic or even fairground attractions.
His was thus comfortable to appear in marble, the highest-status medium, with — in fine-art terms — a low-status wax model. So, while contemplation makes a point about research style and character, His's roles in championing wax and human embryology explain why he holds a rare model and the first known representation of an embryo in any portrait. The model demands the same close attention as the embryologist. His modelled embryos from the first two months of development. The preparations were collected in medical encounters with miscarrying or aborting women or, rarely, from a cadaver.
By contrast, Leipzig midwives provided twenty-two of some seventy-nine normal preparations, but he does not tell us their names and called their embryos by Greek letters. Since exactitude was so important to Seffner and His, he is holding a specific model. Collecting involved reinterpretation. For embryos from the first two months, women may have experienced only a late period.
We do not know how she interpreted the event, but His, or conceivably his supplier, was probably the first to frame the product as an embryo. The object arrived in the Leipzig institute on a dark afternoon in November a few minutes before a lecture, so His could not examine it fresh for long. Under a low-power microscope or magnifying glass he opened the egg membranes, took a first look inside and preserved the embryo straightaway. Removing the membranes also eliminated the clearest indication of connection to the pregnant woman.
At leisure, he photographed Fig. He thus took material from an experience of miscarriage, abortion or illness and arranged it in a narrative of development. A Photograph on glass by the Leipzig anatomical institute photographer, Th.
VIII detail of lithograph by E. Funke ; C wax model by Friedrich Ziegler c. His insisted on slicing up even the rarest objects in order to see inside, but also on reconstructing physically graspable 3-D forms. So he sectioned the embryo Fig. The modeller Friedrich Ziegler reproduced and sold an artistically coloured version of this original, one of a successful series on the first month of development Fig. Dissecting, sectioning and modelling thus created model embryos, in every sense.
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A tiny uncertainty became a solid object that an anatomist could clasp Fig. It represents the stage — the most curled up — which other widely-distributed illustrations had made most familiar. He held a wax model or a plaster copy.
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There is a complication. Portraits of His. A As rector of the University of Leipzig, Note as differences from the marble, for example, the folds at the bottom of His's left sleeve and the file marks on the jacket on his left, as well as the form of the embryo. How were embryologist and embryo seen?
In the near absence of recorded responses, I shall approach likely meanings by reconstructing settings in order to suggest resources on which spectators may have drawn. From this inner sanctum he cultivated familial and professional identities by drawing at the microscope and writing, and collected the portraits among which, for most of the early years, the sculpture was seen. The musical and artistic family — his wife Elisabeth His-Vischer, six grown-up children, their families and the servants — were the main audience in the few years before and the decades after his death.
The work was for them, to be there, in his place, when he was gone. The bust was displayed with family portraits ranging from the early eighteenth-century paintings around it Fig. His was born into an old Basel clan of silk-ribbon merchants, the industry on which the city-state's legendary wealth was built. A grandfather, Peter Ochs, had founded the Helvetic Republic in He became controversial in the years of restoration that followed, but His's father changed their surname and regained a position among the wealthy patriciate.
In this milieu an impressive portrait collection signalled distinction, and in many were reproduced in the Ochs-His tercentenary chronicle. Photograph of His's writing desk and sideboard, probably taken when he died.
A Marble Embryo: Meanings of a Portrait from 1900
The sideboard holds photographs of their children, a bust and what may be medal boxes. Portraits and portraiture were unusually significant to the His family, who not only sat for others but also portrayed themselves. Wilhelm's mother died when he was ten and his elder brother, Eduard His-Heusler, recalled their sense of consolation that the older children had persuaded her to sit for a good oil painting only a few months before. When their sister Antonie married Miescher and moved to Bern, Eduard copied the painting, not in his usual watercolours, but, having inherited tools and materials from his uncle, a miniaturist, on ivory.
Eduard continued to make portraits as well as collect and write about art. The pose is more modest than the works around, but the bust is more ostentatious in medium and size. It portrays the scholarly recognition that His achieved, first by sacrificing the financial rewards of following his older brothers into business, 45 and second by controversially leaving Basel. In their ceremonial finery the trio represent a lineage of intellectual attainment beyond the home town. Yet though His became every inch the Leipzig professor, the setting also places the bust as a Basel family portrait, especially because Elisabeth appears above his desk in a Seffner relief from , when she turned sixty-five Fig.
His negotiated Basel citizenship for his children and returned every summer. What did it mean for a model embryo to join the family memorabilia — did it become kin? It was more like an addition to the tribe this anthropologist was constructing. Nor should we make too much of the formal parallels with portraits of the His women holding infants on their laps, 53 or of fathers and sons.
The homunculi were intellectual offspring, not relatives. The model embryo was nevertheless at home here. It may also have been from this desk Fig.