Preparation for an autopsy
in Over her dead body
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The pictorial representation of dead women became so prevalent in eighteenth and nineteenth century European culture that by the middle of the latter century this topos was already dangerously hovering on the periphery of cliche. The author has chosen to concentrate on Gabriel von Max's painting Der Anatom for the reason that at first glance it is exemplary of nineteenth century salon painting: commonplace, spectacular, kitsch. It was commonly believed that the hypnotised, often feminine medium, in its corpse-like state, could gain access to the realm of the dead and enter into a dialogue with the deceased. The image of a feminine corpse presents a concept of beauty which places the work of death into the service of the aesthetic process. This form of beauty is contingent on the translation of an animate body into a deanimated one.

Over her dead body

Death, femininity and the aesthetic


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