The anatomy theatre


The room, named Theatre for its characteristic amphitheatre form, was designed in 1637 for the anatomy lessons by Bologna's artist Antonio Paolucci also known as Levanti, a pupil of Carracci.
It was constructed with spruce wood and was decorated with two orders of statues depicting at the base twelve celebrated doctors (Hippocrates, Galen, Fabrizio Bartoletti, Girlamo Sbaraglia, Marcello Malpighi, Carlo Fracassati, Mondino de' Liuzzi, Bartolomeo da Varignana, Pietro d'Argelata, Costanzo Varolio, Giulio Cesare Aranzio, Gaspare Tagliacozzi) and above, twenty of the most famous anatomists of the Studio bolognese.
The cattedra del lettore (teacher's desk), towering above the desk of the demonstrator, is flanked by two Spellati (skinned men) statues, sculpted in 1734 based on the drawing of Ercole Lelli, a famous wax model maker from the Istituto delle Scienze.
Above the canopy a female figure sits as an allegory of Anatomy. A small angel gifts her not with a flower, but with a thighbone.
The anatomical room was heavily damaged during the bombardment of Bologna on January 29th, 1944, destroying this wing of the building and was reconstructed immediately after the war, reusing the original wooden sculptures that were fortunately recovered from the rubble.

The panneled ceiling, realised in 1645 by Antonio Levanti, is decorated with symbolic figures representing fourteen constellations with Apollo in the centre, the god of medicine.
The choice of the astrological theme is due to the tradition of consulting the stars before proceeding with operations or administering drugs, according to a medical conception reflecting the influence exercised in all of Europe by the Arabs' Science dating back to their conquest of Spain. Astrology was associated with medicine and every part of the body was placed under the guardianship of a zodiac sign. Astrology continued to be study material also at the University of Bologna until the XVII century. The decoration of the ceiling reflects a specific way of understanding man and his biological life in relationship with nature and the cosmos.


The ceiling of the Anatomy Theatre in a xylograph from 1668 attributed to Matteo Barboni and Lorenzo Tinti. (The disposition of the figures respect them in reality, exceptions made for Andromeda and il Sagittarius, whom are inverted. )
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