Scientific achievements in the Clemente Susini’s wax anatomical models of the University of Cagliari

Alessandro Riva, Gabriele Conti, Francesco Loy


The waxes of Cagliari were manufactured between 1803-1805, and represent a work of the maturity of Clemente Susini (1754-1814) the chief modeller of La Specola. The dissections reproduced by Susini were carried out by Francesco Antonio Boi (Olzai,1767-Cagliari, 1865), from the University of Cagliari who had been sent on purpose to Florence by the Viceroy Carlo Felice of Savoy (1765-1831). The models which arrived in Cagliari in 1806 contained in 23 showcases, are attached to 23 wooden tables that bear the original tag with date and Susini’s signature. The latter is a distinctive character in that, of the over 2000 models accomplished under Susini’ guidance, only a few bear his signature. Moreover, they were made when Susini was eventually free from the influence of Felice Fontan. By order of Carlo Felice the models to be made for Cagliari, which consist of a special mix of waxes able to resist the hot climate of south Sardinia, had to be unique and, thus, at variance with those of La Specola, no copies of them are seen in other collections. On the other hand, possibly thanks to Francesco Antonio Boi, a few mistakes seen in the collections of Florence, Vienna, and Bologna, such as the presence of lymphatics in the human brain, are absent here. A distinctive character is the relevance given to visceral and somatic nerves which are shown in more than one third of the models. Of particular relevance is a representation of human brain convolutions preceding the one published by Rolando in 1830, and an extremely accurate and detailed preparartion of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. An overall evaluation of the collection greatly emphasizes both his artistic and scientific values, reflecting the intelligent cooperation between the Florentine artist and the Sardinian anatomist.


Clemente Susini; wax anatomical models; Francesco Antonio Boi

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