Shaw: Anatomical Angel

“I wanted to play up the degree of ambiguity, contradiction and metaphor. Whether religious/blasphemous or playing on the notion of the “anatomical Venus” (reference of which came from Ridley, Chris Seagers and Victor Zolfo) and so on. David’s sociopathy in full flight and anachronistic feelings about Shaw.”

– Matt Hatton.

Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty was a French anatomist, painter and printmaker. Building on the technology founded by his rival and teacher Jacob Christoph Le Blon, he created colour print images using a method based on etching and mezzotint engraving.

One of his pieces Anatomical Angel made in 1745 is part of an exploration of art and science during the age of enlightenment.

“For men to be instructed, they must be seduced by aesthetics, but how can anyone render the image of death agreeable?” – Arnaud-Éloi Gautier D’Agoty

Religion, Art & Science

Anatomical Venus or Slashed Beauties were a tool to educate the public about the human anatomy because to know and understand the intimate workings of the human body was a way to appreciate the complexity of gods creation. The unprecedented support came from the Catholic church with artists and the scientific community joining together to educate the masses. Cadavers were hard to preserve and through creating these wax models which would stand the test of time became something of a marvel during era, a notable difference between the Anatomical Venus of Florence and those created elsewhere, there seems to be more beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as opposed to their foreign counterparts which looked dead, dull and practical. During the age of enlightenment, you see a marriage of art, science, religion and medicine. An interesting combination that was part of the foundations of the Orrery in Prometheus.

“The purpose of anatomical images during the period of the Renaissance to the19th century had as much to do with what we would call aesthetic and theological understanding as with the narrower interests of medical illustrators as now understood. . . They were not simply instructional diagrams for the doctor technician, but statements about the nature of human beings as made by God in the context of the created world as a whole . . . they are about the nature of life and death. . .”

 – Spectacular Bodies: The Art and Science of the Human Body from Leonardo to Now

It is no surprise then that David considers himself to be an aesthete, his recreation of this piece shows Elizabeth Shaw in a similarly inspired presentation.

Transcription: “Posterior presentation of spine with separated ribcage”

His anatomical drawings feature more eroticism, much like Giger’s work.

New York City VI by H.R.Giger


Sacrilegious Femininity

The sacrilegious and horror thematic was present in H.R.Giger’s designs. In Alien this would be no exception, the Ovomorph at first designed with a slit at the top like a vaginal opening the egg, Fox Studios saw it as much too sexual and would not go down well in Catholic countries. So to help ease the Catholic church into accepting the egg Giger created it with a cross instead. To Giger, it seemed like he was making it twice more phallic in design, which he found quite entertaining.

“So I built up this egg with a top like a vagina. But when the producers turned
up in my studio, they exclaimed, ‘Oh, that’s too specific! We can’t show such things in
Catholic countries. Can’t you change the egg just a little bit?” So to satisfy Catholic audiences, I modified the egg, and made the opening a cross on the top.”

– H.R.Giger, Alien Design Cinefantastique

You can read more about the Ovomorph here at Alien Explorations blog.

Anatomical Angel Poem

Unfastened avidly from each ivory button 
               of her spine, the voluntary muscles open 
virtuosities of red: Cinnabar 
                                    the mutagen, and carmine from cochineal 
               born between fog and frost, so many little 
deaths Buddhists refuse to wear 
                                    robes soaked in its thousands. Sunsets 
               of other centuries fade in galleries to ash. 
Red is fugitive: As the voice, the blow 
                                    of gravity along a nerve opening to an ache 
               the body can’t unhouse: As the carnation 
suffusing cheek and haunch like saucers 
                                    from the king’s porcelain rinsed in candlelight. 
               Gratuitous as the curl, the urn-shaped torso, 
the pensive, brimming gaze of pretty 
                                    post-coital thought she half-turns over one 
               excavated shoulder. As if to see herself 
in a mirror’s savage theater as elegy 
                                    to the attempt to fill an exhausted form, 
               to learn again the old ordeals of wound 
and hand and eye. To find the source of burning. 
– L’ange Anatomique, by Jacques-Fabien Gautier Dagoty, 1746


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