Fellows 2022


Prof. Dr. Jordana Dym (Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, in Gotha FKTS/SP)

The World Displayed: The Cartography of Western Travel Writers, 1450–1930

Prof. Dr. Gioia Filocamo (Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “Giulio Briccialdi” of Terni, in Gotha FZG)

Music for Anatomical Dissections in Universities of the Modern Era

The project explores the possible reasons for the presence of music in some European anatomical theatres during the modern age, starting from the end of the sixteenth century, in order to finalize some conclusions in an original essay.
The anatomical theatre of Padua was the first permanent structure – finished at the end of 1594 and still existing – where human anatomy was taught also through the dissection of corpses. This practice, although also practiced previously, was explicitly permitted by the brief of Pope Sixtus IV which authorized autopsies in the University of Tübingen in April 1482. The lectures held in Padua by the legendary anatomist Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente (1533-1619), Gabriele Falloppio’s favorite pupil who succeeded him as a university lecturer, recalled several foreign students in the city, including many Protestant Germans gathered in the Natio Germanica Artistarum. In fact, it was only at the University of Padua that the Protestants could bypass the Catholic professio fidei imposed on students about to graduate by Pope Pius IV, with the bull In sacrosancta (1564), in compliance with the dictates of the Council of Trent: the extraordinary doctoral colleges of the city allowed hospitality to Catholic and Reformed students without the obligation of any oath. And in Padua we know of German students who requested and obtained musical performances to lift their spirits during anatomical dissections. My research project investigates the complex meaning of this need and the function of music in this specific context, then the meaning assigned by the Protestant culture to the spiritual reassurance induced by music, and the ways in which this would have happened or, at least, it would have been hoped. To my knowledge, the presence of music in other anatomical theatres is also witnessed in the universities of Leiden and Bologna, but it could have been requested in other cities of which I am not currently aware.
This research is absolutely interdisciplinary, since it touches different areas but all connected to each other. Mainly: the history of university teaching, the history of university student society, the history of mentality, the history of philosophy (Platonic and Aristotelian), the social and religious function of music. This last aspect is what I would like to explore as much as possible. We know that music was present in the anatomical theatres of the modern age, but the chronicles refer mainly to celebratory and festive situations (inaugural lectures, carnival parties, etc.), which also included an autopsy to demonstrate the excellence of the teachers of the university itself: universities competed with each other also through this sort of events. But the case of Padua also testifies a peculiar context: some German students requested music during anatomy lessons intended for them, lessons that foreigners considered one of the main reasons of appeal in the university especially starting from the presence of Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), a famous professor of anatomy in Padua until 1542. Vesalius was the author of the revolutionary De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Basel, Johannes Oporinus, 1543), a treatise that completely changed the approach of academic knowledge on the human body. According to his innovative vision, the anatomical dissection was needed to investigate the human body as a curious detective would have done, not only to confirm the structural details as they were described in classic books based on the intellectual framework drawn from Galenic medicine and Aristotelian natural philosophy. For Vesalius, this investigative activity on the human body was a physician’s task, and this opinion subverted the status of the typical anatomical lesson conducted until then in the universities, where there was the interaction up to three different subjects: (1) the lector, who sat far and above the corpse, ex cathedra, and declaimed the description of the human body by reading it from a classical Galenic treatise; (2) the ostensor, who showed on the naked body through a stick what the professor had just read from his book; (3) the dissector, the one who physically operated the dissection on the corpse starting with a cut from the sternum to the pubis: he was a surgeon-barber, a professional figure traditionally devoted to bloodletting and the treatment of venereal diseases. Therefore, Vesalius accompanied anatomical science at the gates of the seventeenth-century scientific revolution which undermined the model of Aristotelian interpretation of the world. The new vision of anatomy is clearly visible from the image shown on the frontispiece of his De humani corporis fabrica: we see Vesalius himself, the professor, portrayed while working on the corpse surrounded by the crowd of students. Modern science was beginning its journey.
Coming back to the interesting case of the University of Padua, and to what I would like to understand better in relation to the changes in progress: why, then, did the demand for music during anatomical dissections come from German students? Is it possible that their education and background have been significant in formulating this request at the university? In particular: could there be a causal link between the Protestant mentality of German students and their need for music? Is it really certain that the presence of music in this peculiar context can only be linked to the ceremonial aspect of the anatomy? (this is the opinion of CYNTHIA KLESTINEC, Theaters of Anatomy: Students, Teachers, and Traditions of Dissection in Renaissance Venice, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011, pp. 106-107). What was the specific calming effect that one hoped to receive from the music itself during the disturbing ‘show’ of the anatomical lesson? And could this benefit have a religious value in some way linked to the awareness that the object of study lying on the anatomical table had an immortal soul? The chronicles document a very detached lexical attitude when anatomy teachers and medical students referred to the corpse to be dissected (called ‘the subject’), a corpse sometimes even stolen by the students themselves. But most of the time the corpses for anatomy belonged to healthy men died as a result of a death sentence: subjects, therefore, who linked the infamy of condemnation and ‘judicial killing’ to further infamy – considered dishonourable at most – of public anatomy. There were special city confraternities dealing specifically with the comfort of those condemned to death, the oldest of which originated at Bologna in 1336 and called “Santa Maria della Morte” (Saint Mary of Death). These institutions assured the prisoner full absolution from sins and the burial of his body in consecrated land in exchange for his full submission to his hard destiny, but sometimes the judicial authorities allowed medical students to take advantage of these corpses for their anatomical inquiries.
I started the study around the project a few weeks ago, and my impression is that this research can be set from different points of view. I would mainly like to explore the presence of music in anatomical theatres to penetrate its specific emotional function: the De vita coelitus comparanda (1489, the third book of De vita) by the neoplatonic thinker Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), for example, enhances the medical qualities of music for the human soul, a direct energetic emanation of the divine love present in the cosmos. Music would be able to take care of the human spirit in parallel with what medicine does with the body: the dynamism of music would bring the soul closer to the higher spheres, purifying it.
I am very interested to understand if the Protestantism of the German students enrolled at the University of Padua could be linked in some way to the philosophical conceptions circulating at that time. And to this goal, the rich section devoted to the cultural history of Protestantism in Early Modern Europe of the Gotha library would certainly provide a precious support difficult to find in other research centres. The library also stores several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century publications by Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente, books on Andreas Vesalius (including the 1975 facsimile of his De humani corporis fabrica), and a very useful secondary bibliography on the conception of anatomy at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that I have not yet been able to consult in Italy. It would therefore surely be very fruitful to be able to spend a period of study in this important German research centre.

Gioia Filocamo teaches Poetry for Music and Musical Dramaturgy at the Istituto superiore di Studi musicali di Terni (Italy), and Music and Society in the Medieval and Renaissance Age at the University of Parma. She received a Diploma in Piano (1988), a Degree in Drama, Art, and Music Studies (1994), a Ph.D. in the Philology of Music (2001), and a Ph.D. in Modern History (2015). She has held post-doctoral research fellowships in Bologna (University), Chicago (Newberry Library), Wolfenbüttel (Herzog August Bibliothek), and a scholarship at St John’s College, Cambridge. She has produced a complete critical edition of an anthology of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century music, Florence, BNC, Panciatichi MS 27: Text and Context (Brepols 2010), co-edited Uno gentile et subtile ingenio, a Festschrift in honour of Bonnie Blackburn (Brepols 2009), and has published articles on various aspects of musical life in modern age Italy. Her interest focuses mainly on how music interacted with social life in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but she has also worked on opera.

Prof. Dr. Carina Johnson (Claremont, USA)

Identity Markers and Boundaries in Early Modern Europe

Prof. Dr. Gábor Gángó (Budapest, in Gotha FZG)

Influence in politics, influence in the republic of letters: Johann Christian von Boineburg’s relations with Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff, 1661–63

Dr. Zef Segal (The Open University of Israel, in Gotha FKTS/SP)

Maps on The Move: The Introduction of Motion into Modern Cartography

Dr. Messan Tossa (University of Lomé, in Gotha FKTS/SP)

Narrative der Aufklärung in Biografien von afrikanischen Hofmohren