Visual abstraction and anatomy: pre- and post-modern imagery

Tricia Daly*, Philip Bell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Illustrations from pre-modern and Renaissance 'Anatomies', on the one hand, and late 20th-century digital representations of male and female anatomy, on the other, are contrasted and compared in terms of social semiotic concepts. The title page of On the Fabric of the Human Body (1543), for instance, presents detailed narrativizations and conceptual constructions of the changing worlds and significance of public anatomical demonstrations and their settings in 'theatres'. In the early anatomical illustrations discussed, women's bodies were objectified as the locus of male surgeons' practices, revealing the truth of bifurcated gender. Similarly, in popular digital sequences of anatomy composed around mobile microphotographic 'fly-throughs' in The Human Body (1998) and in other Wellcome Trust/BBC productions, gender is abstracted in ways that continue to naturalize long-established binaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-198
Number of pages16
JournalVisual Communication
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • digital imagery
  • gender
  • medical series
  • popular science
  • Renaissance imagery
  • visual abstraction


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