Bentham’s Preserved Corpse in NYC

Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham’s mummified corpse with his real head at his feet.

The mummified corpse of 18th-century English philosopher, progressive social reformer, and inspiring jurist Jeremy Bentham will travel from University College London (UCL) to The Met Breuer in New York City for a groundbreaking exhibition about the human body that will run from March 21st to July 22nd, 2018.

The modern utilitarianism founder, who was born in 1748 in London, England, was a firm supporter of the principle that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” In 1769, at the age of 21, Bentham wrote a draft in which he expressed his disturbing wish. Although dissection was considered to be a posthumous punishment method applied mainly to criminals, he gave specific instructions to medical scientists to dissect his body, reassemble it and permanently preserve it as an “auto-icon.” Since his death in 1832, UCL has been the place to host his memorial. 

Jeremy Bentham’s “auto-icon” will be part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition entitled “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300-Now).” The display, taking over two floors and including a wax replica of the philosopher’s head, his skeleton dressed in his original clothes and his walking stick, aims to unsettle all museum’s demanding visitors.

The “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now)” exhibition will explore the way talented artists have worked to replicate the literal, living presence of the human body, through approximately 120 masterpieces. The artifacts date back from 14th-century Europe to present and come from national and international private collections and museums.

Sculptures created by artists such as Donatello, El Greco, Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas and Louise Bourgeois will share the same space with reliquaries, wax effigies, anatomical models, mannequins, and casts of real bodies. Visitors will witness the exciting application of color to imitate skin and flesh, as well as the incorporation of human clothes, blood, hair, bones, and teeth for the in-depth investigation of the three-dimensional simulation of the human body.

Info
Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now)
The Met Breuer: 945 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021, Phone: 212 731 1675
Closed Monday, Tuesday–Thursday: 10am–5:30 pm, Friday & Saturday: 10 am–9 pm, Sunday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Buy Tickets Now (The exhibition is free with Museum admission)

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