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From The Essential Herbert List: Photographs 1930-1972
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The remains of martyred saints, as photographed by Toby de Silva.
Anatomical Illustration, “Images of the Human Body,” Pepin Press (by astropop)
Source: Flickr / astropop
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Shinnyokai-Shonin’s “living mummy” sits in eternal contemplation at Dainichibo Temple in Japan.
The process of Buddhist Masters becoming mummified while still living was a custom that was practiced until late into the 19th Century with documented cases still occurring in the 20th century. The custom was to create kind of “living” idol of a buddhavista or incarnation of Buddha who would reside permanently in a Japanese temple.
The revered Shinnyokai-Shonin was one such mummified monk. In 1784, a terrible famine raged in the central Japanese Island of Honshu. Hundreds of thousands of people were dead or dying of starvation, malnutrition and diesase.
Shinnyokai, 96 years old at the time, believed that Buddha needed a sign of great compassion to end the famine. He dug a pit on a hill near Dainichibo Temple and with the help of others, sealed himself in a wooden coffin that was then lowered into the pit and buried. With a thin bamboo breathing tube in place the monk sat in total darkness, awaiting the inevitable. Three years after his death, his body was exhumed in 1786. The people were astonished to find that the monk had been completely mummified.
By end of the famine a 1792 government census reported 4.5% of the total population of Honshu dead - a total of 1,119,159 people.
Shinnyokai’s mummification methodology was refined for many years after his death. The first step being for a prospective mummy monk to spend 1,000 days (over 3 years) eating a strict diet of nuts and seeds and engage in rigorous physical training to strip the body of fat.
Step two, involved another 1,000 days of eating only bark and roots in gradually diminishing amounts. Toward the end, they would start drinking tea made from the sap of the urushi tree, a poisonous substance normally used to make Japanese lacquer bowls, which caused further loss of bodily fluid. The tea was brewed with water from a sacred spring at Mt. Yudono, which is now known to contain a high level of arsenic. The concoction created a germ-free environment within the body and helped preserve whatever meat was left on the bone.
Finally, the monks would seal themselves in a small underground chamber connected to the surface by a tiny bamboo air pipe. There, the monks meditate until the point of death - at which point they were sealed in their tomb. After another 1,000 days, they were dug up and cleaned. If the body remained well-preserved after this 10-year process then the monk was deemed a living mummy.
Unfortunately, most who attempted self-mummification were unsuccessful, but the few who succeeded achieved Buddha status and are still enshrined today at temples. As many as two dozen of these living mummies are in the care of temples in northern Honshu.
Skeleton of an Adult Male
Posed to most effectively convey limb relation to torso anatomy.
The Anatomy of the Humane Body: Edition VI. William Cheselden, 1741.
Baby’s bony body
Newborns are a bundle of bones – more than 300 to be more precise. Over time, many of these bones fuse together. One obvious example: The 44 original, separate components of the skull, whose loose confederation allows a newborn’s head to more easily pass through the birth canal and to accommodate dramatic brain and head growth during in the first year of life outside the womb. Generally, an infant’s skull fuses together by age two to provide better protection of the brain.
Overall, the total number of bones in the body is reduced to 206 by the time humans reach adulthood.
Above is a human fetus visualized in the third trimester of pregnancy using a computed tomographic scan and volume rendering software. Courtesy of Philipp Gunz and Jean-Jacques Hublin at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
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Fetal Skeleton Tableau, 17th Century, University Backroom, Paris.
Photograph by Joanna Ebenstein.
His cousin painted nubile beauties in flirtatious poses. He skinned, preserved, and posed dead bodies…
Honore Fragonard was not normal, by anyone’s definition. He was a gifted anatomist, a skilled artist, and a prodigious creator of his unique masterpieces known as écorchés, or “flayed figures.” He produced hundreds of these macabre teaching tools, intended to help medical students understand the inner workings of the human body at a time when dissection was discouraged, and most students learned only from illustrations. His creations, however, were more than anatomical models: they were gruesome works of three dimensional art.
Cousin to the more famous Jean-Honore Fragonard, painter, Honore instead pursued a path that led him to be appointed professor of anatomy at Paris’ first veterinary school. It was there that he developed his passion for the art of the cadaver.
His technique for his écorchés was revolutionary - and now lost - using a combination of lacquer, resin, and wax to preserve specimens of animals and man. His most disturbing works are undoubtedly his vignettes of flayed cadavers posed to emulate motifs from art and myth. Of those that remain, the most famous is his Horseman of the Apocalypse, a nightmarish semi-fleshed skeleton perched astride a similarly flayed galloping horse, said to have been inspired by Albrect Durer’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Strangely enough, at some point his employers at the hospital found his work to be a bit beyond their comfort zone, and he was dismissed as a madman. But, luckily for us, they did not throw everything away, and the next time you are in Paris you can stop by the visit the last of his creations.
Via Atlas Obscura
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