In the exquisitely illustrated The Anatomical Venus, Joanna Ebenstein, cofounder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, explores the allure of a female wax figure created in 18th-century Florence with the aim of teaching anatomy to a popular audience. Ebenstein gives us a survey of this bizarre object, a perfect intersection of science and art.

Of all the objects in the medical museum, the Anatomical Venus is the most seductive and confounding. A life-sized, dissectible wax woman with real human hair, glass eyes, and a string of pearls, she was created around 1780 as the centerpiece for the first truly public science museum in Florence, Italy.

At the time of her creation, the Anatomical Venus was seen as an ideal, beautiful and intuitive way to teach a general public about human anatomy without need for dissection; Today she seems utterly bizarre. How could we have changed so much in just over 200 years that this object now seems startlingly beyond comprehension? My new book The Anatomical Venus, attempts to--via a combination of word and image, and drawing on the scholarship of a broad array of historians, cultural theorists, and philosophers--investigate this mystery and to seduce a popular audience into her peculiar history. MORE