The Ecorche

Strange realm: didactic art. To look so closely, and reject so deeply, he searches through two hundred imperfect skeletons (half again that many for the female!) to build one perfect figure. Like any connoisseur, he samples, he tastes—here a clavicle, here a patella, here a graceful zygomatic arch. And when he has his perfect skeleton—his flawless man, his peerless woman—and has cast them, then what?

He poses them: layers muscles, tendons, ligaments upon his perfect bones, cloaks them at last in waxen skin. Then strips them down again—as woman tempts, as man falls—as decay breathes its rude breath upon the frost-flowers of their youth—instructional metaphor. Be not proud, they say, O man, and woman, be thou humbler still. This conquerer worm was coiled about your apple, Eve.

Across town, she sculpts her own hand in wax. Imperfect hand, heavy with middle-class comfort, she has dissected dozens of cadavers to see her own muscles so clearly at play. She sculpts an eye, a stomach, a wide-winged clitoris. She remembers, compares, contrasts, observes: the perfect has no truck with her. Her ecorchés are all of them individual, unique. This too is science.