The Proper Uses of Desire

Sex & Procreation in Reformation Anatomical Fugitive Sheets


In Strasbourg in 1538 the artist and publisher Heinrich Vogtherr, the Elder, designed and published a rather unusual anatomical fugitive sheet, or single-sheet woodcut (figure 11.1). The print’s title immediately proclaims its status as an example of Anathomia and promises to demonstrate to viewers the formation of the interior of the body (wie er inwendig gestaltet ist).1 Yet, despite this textual promise to display the body’s interior, Vogtherr’s woodcut presents a nude female figure, apparently perfectly and wholly live and intact, engaging viewers with her gaze and seated frontal pose. Surprisingly, the fulfillment of this textual promise of knowledge is offered to viewers in the form of the figure’s torso printed as a superimposed flap, which viewers could lift to reveal the body’s interior. The image is most striking, however, for the way in which the flap engages viewers in a conceit of sexual unveiling, as if lifting a thin drape from across the figure’s lap.2 Even more explicitly, in Hans Guldenmundt’s related set of images that depict male and female figures as Adam and Eve, viewers must first lift fig leaves as separate flaps over the figures’ sexual organs before lifting the torso flaps themselves.3 Thus, this use of the flap transforms viewing into a temporal physical act that is simultaneously a mimicking of dissection and a sexual unveiling, both experienced as analogous paths to knowledge through vision.


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  1. 13.
    Hans Gersdorff, Feldtbuch der Wundtartzney ( Strasbourg: J. Schott, 1517 );Google Scholar
  2. Lorenz Fries, Spiegel der Artzney ( Strasbourg: J. Grüninger, 1518 ).Google Scholar

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© Anne L. McClanan and Karen Rosoff Encarnación 2002

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