LEFT: The abdomen and womb in late pregnancy, in Sōmatographia anthrōpinē. Or, A description of the body of man. Text by Helkiah Crooke, abridged by Alexander Read, illustrations after various models, published London, 1634.
The Royal College of Physicians tried to ban the first edition of this book, called Mikrokosmogaphia, because the language it used to describe anatomy – English – was considered inappropriate. Latin was the preferred language of learned scholars, and was not understood by most people in the country.
The physicians were particularly concerned that these woodcut illustrations of the reproductive system were indecent and could corrupt public morals, and recommended that they be removed from all copies.
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RIGHT: Fernande. Adelaide Damoah, ink on hand made cotton rag paper, 2018.
Adelaide Damoah is a painter and performance artist who uses her body as a printing tool to create her works.
By using this technique, Damoah takes direct control of how she – as a black woman – is depicted. She challenges the sexual and racial stereotypes of, in her own words, ‘passive female bodies, ripe for objectification and sexualisation by the male gaze’, which are pervasive in artistic and medical representations.
Damoah’s life-size body prints are individual and personal images. They are visually similar to the anatomical tables displayed upstairs. These tables preserve the bodies of people who lived and died 350 years ago. However, any direct personal connection to these individuals has been lost because their identities were not recorded when the tables were made.
‘Fernande’ is part of the series ‘Muse, Model or Mistress?, inspired by the monologues for the muses of Picasso written by Brian McAvera and performed at Gallery Different in September 2018.