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Hic jacet Vesalius
This pair of sculptures on the seashore was completely unexpected. What was a flayed man contemplating a skull doing here?
Andreas Vesalius, born with the more Flemish name Andries van Wesel, was the founder of modern anatomy, one of the first doctors in the Renaissance to dissect humans and work out what was going on with his own eyes, rather than relying on the dissections performed by Galen and Hippocrates.
For that, he got great renown, including an appointment as court physician to the Holy Roman Emperor in Spain. He also got a lot of derision from fellow academics, for getting his hands dirty instead of reading about it in books. The Spanish Inquisition was also not too happy about whatever he was up to.
(Okay, it was the religious authorities in general and not specifically the Spanish Inquisition, but everything sounds better if you mentioned the Spanish Inquisition. After all, nobody expects them.)
A decade later, rumor goes, he’d had enough, and he had just received an invitation to go back to lecturing in Padua. Whatever he intended to do about it, he left Spain for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
And there is a sculpture to him here on the Zante sea front, behind the Central Square, because he got randomly shipwrecked on the way back, and died here on the island.
That sudden, that random.
Andreas Vezal. Born Brussels, 1514. Died Zante, 1564.
I was asked what was with the Hamlet pose in the sculpture. The original publication of his book had some way out there illustration (that’s why the flayed man was used), and there’s lots of specimens holding a skull, though not Hamleting at it. This illustration comes closest to a Hamlet: