The Anatomy of Gender: Arts of the Body in Early Modern Europe

Alsdorf Gallery

Model of a pregnant femaleAnonymous, Model of a pregnant female, 18th century, ivory on marble base. The Alabama Museum of Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Male and female anatomical differences seem to be self-evident, neutral truths of biology. And yet, throughout Western history, male and female bodies have been continuously subjected to diverse social, religious, and cultural characterizations that are anything but neutral. Bringing together images in diverse media — prints and printed books, small sculptures in ivory and wax — this exhibition explored the complex attitudes toward visualizing sexual differences in early Modern elite and popular culture. The Anatomy of Gender was curated by Lyle Massey, assistant professor of art history, Northwestern University, and organized by the Block Museum with loans from the Alabama Museum of Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University, Evanston; Galter Health Sciences Library, Special Collections, Northwestern University, Chicago; Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; Science Museum, London; University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. An illustrated exhibition guide accompanied the exhibition. A companion web site, mounted by the Northwestern University Library, is at