man is but a soap bubble


(preserved infant from Ruysch’s collection)

Dr Frederik Ruysch conducted public anatomy theatres in 17th century Holland. During the warmer months, these theatres were turned into cabinets of rarities. Six human skeletons, taken from executed criminals, stood on the visitor’s galleries, holding placards saying such things as Memento Mori or Homo Bulla.

pinhole camera wayne belger

“pinhole camera” by Wayne Martin Belger

In Holland one of the earliest locations for the Amsterdam anatomy theatre was housed in St. Margaret’s Church, directly opposite the ‘New or Little Meat Hall‘. William Heckscher quotes a poem taken from an engraving of the church which reads

sarah illenberger sarah illenberger meat

images by Sarah Illenberger

The two meat halls which you see here are well equipped with beautiful “meat“, beautiful inside and out, and so much of it that one hardly knows where it all goes. Come on, little ladies, if you feel like investing your money; buy as much as your heart desires – from this kind of “flesh” your spouses won’t grow horns...


In the image below the skeleton in the right foreground girdles its hips with injected sheep intestines, its right hand grasping a spear made of the hardened vas deferens of an adult man. On the left behind a handsome vase made of the inflated tunica albuginae of the testis is an elegant little skeleton with a feather on its head and a stone coughed up from the lungs hanging in its hand (Antonie Luyendijk-Elshout)


Published in: on July 27, 2009 at 8:25 am  Comments (23)  

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well amsterdam is still well known for its wide array of ‘meat’…

    There is something oddly fascinating about that pinhole camera.

    • did you look at some of the other cameras? they’re all pretty cool

      • Yes they all have a very steampunk/gothic aesthetic to them, very cool!

      • I knew you’d like them!

  2. Those cameras are lovely. I’ve always liked skulls. I used to have quite a large collection [not human apart from the one I carry around with me] – Penfold has got them now …… I think.

  3. There’s a traveling exhibit of dissected bodies that’s currently visiting New York that’s not too far removed from the public anatomy theaters.

    • Hey UB, I’ve seen that show – it’s been to Sydney too

  4. wouldn’t mind having this guy decorate my home!

  5. I’ve been to that bodies exhibit as well and it was interesting. I’ll bet the one in Holland was better though!

  6. I like to think of myself as well equipped with beautiful meat.

    • and that’s exactly how I think of you too RF

  7. Very interesting.
    That camera is well beyond the anatomical assemblages housed at the Mutter Museum over in Philadelphia. Still not as good as that church that’s decorated entirely from Skeletons.

    • The Sedlec Ossuary? I so want to go there one day….

  8. It was interesting that when the Bodies exhibit came here, the local Archdiocese didn’t support Catholic Schools from going to see it. While I can understand it from a humanitary reason, the Fetus exhibit would I dare say make alot of School girls reconsider abortion.

  9. The last photie reminds me of the ingredients of a tasty haggis.

  10. Preserved infants are SO cute!!! And well-behaved!

    • Ginny, I believe you and I are sisters…..

  11. I had my right hand around a hardened vas deferens last night.

    • hahahahahaha……

  12. Just couldn’t get past the title lol 😉

  13. well NM, i was here, got a little weary, then my head started to hurt, now i have to go lie down…i just can’t come up with anything quite as witty as the rest..

  14. The skull pinhole camera is cool. I wonder if you get really spooky images with it?

  15. It kind of reminds me of that bodies exhibit that tours around where they use dead people as art. I forget the exact name of it.

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