A short supply of dissectible cadavers in the mid-1800s drove anatomists to a clever, creepy solution: Inject bodies with wax.
An unknown scientist injected this arm with wax to preserve its structure and highlight the complex network of blood vessels. Dutch botanist and anatomist Frederik Ruysch is credited with perfecting the morbid preservation technique.
During Ruysch’s time, his works were referred to as “Rembrandts of anatomical preparation.” In addition to his wax “sculpture,” Ruysch also preserved specimens in his secret embalming fluid: liquor balsamicum.
Ruysch opened a museum to display his specimens to the public, which amplified his reputation as an anatomist among other scientists. His daughter, still-life painter Rachel Ruysch, would often decorate preserved limbs with lace.