.2. The Heritage – The Closed Body

How was and is the body depicted and why?
What is our visual body heritage?
What are the different streams?


The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.




The Mind-Body Connection

The archive of body depictions I will show and classify in this chapter reach from the antiquity to the presence – from the times when Aristotle wrote “The Metaphysics” from which later on the above-noted, famous sentence emerged, that can also be  transferred into “The Body is more than the sum of its parts” and that is a mark for the mind-body duality (HEAD / BODY) – over the time when the discovery of the blood cycle marked the transition from the heart focused to the head focused body[3] (HEART / HEAD) – to the present times of moving interactive cell animations (HEAD / EYES).  
The different streams

I will take up a few facts and discoveries, regarding its theory state (the medical approach), the more abstract metaphysical statement (cultural construction approach) and the visual elaboration (the artistic approach). These I formed out of a mind-map I constructed out of keywords I encountered on my way:

The Timeline

When we look at the visual development of inner body depictions in a linear timeline research we can get easily confused, because history is multithreaded and of course NOT linear. So, it is more effective to order after main characteristics, so suddenly depictions of the antiquity stand next to those of modernism…

Clashing and Merging

Like you will see, the body visualisations combine art, science, spirit, matter, life and death that are permanent clashing and merging (see image [PIC] – Here you see all together in harmony in 1687). And all gain a part of their power out of the reason that the body interior cannot be absolutely defined.


[1] Free after Aristotle, The Metaphysics, trans. John H. McMahon, 2007, book 8

[2] Ursus Wehrli, Die Kunst, Aufzuräumen, 2011, part of the inside cover. Retrieved from

[3] Fay Bound Alberti, Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine, and Emotion, 2010, 39

[4] John Browne (anatomist), Myographia nova…, 1687, frontpiece. Retrieved from