Vertebral column with dissections of nerves and blood vessels, with the figure of a man representing Ecclesiastes
1731 by Johann Georg Pintz
Wellcome Collection; Skin Exhibition until 26th September
Pintz was a German artist, not a man of medicine, which illustrates perfectly the blurred line that historically lies between art and science. With no photography scientists often had to be artists in order to properly document their findings and, though one could dismiss these works as nothing but clinical drawings, the Wellcome’s current exhibition Skin proves otherwise. The exhibition is an intense exploration into what literally lies beneath our bodies through the perhaps juxtaposing medium of fine art. Beauty is paired with the grotesque as skin is peeled back to expose muscle and flesh, articulated through the skilled lines of engraving or the expressive strokes of painting. Wellcome’s passion for medicine, his collection of its artefacts, also turned into a collection of art. Pintz’s approach to the vertebral column is architectural, looking at the pillar of the human body rather like a Greek or Roman column; here the annotated capital is replaced with a blood vessel. The spine is even mounting on the curling, faded face of parchment, pinned on the graceful structures of architectural columns themselves. The viewpoint here, seeing our body through the eyes of one who intends to draw out beauty from the objects of the world, is intriguing, reminding of that key similarity between art and science — their determination to re-present the world.