Destination: flay school

MUSEUM – Le Musée Fragonard d’Alfort, Maisons-Alfort, France.

For several decades now German anatomist Gunther von Hagens has enjoyed success, or perhaps notoriety, through his Body Worlds exhibitions, featuring real cadavers, stripped to the muscle layer and coated in plastic.

Almost 250 years ago another anatomist, Honoré Fragonard, pioneered the concept of posing real, skinned bodies at the precise intersection of ghoulish fascination and scientific interest.

In 1766 Fragonard was appointed professor of anatomy at the École Nationale Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort, south-east of Paris, and quickly set about creating a bizarre collection of tableaux featuring flayed corpses. He created some 700 exhibits before being dismissed from his position in 1771 on suspicion of being insane.

Only 21 remain today, including an Albrecht Durer-inspired man on horseback, surrounded by dancing foetuses; more human foetuses having a dance; and a very dead bloke holding a jawbone in apparent emulation of the biblical figure Samson.

The creations form some of the displays at the eponymous Musée Fragonard d’Alfort in the Paris suburb of Maisons-Alfort. Other attractions include preserved conjoined twin lambs, a calf with two heads and a dissected pig. Entry requires a small admission fee. And a strong stomach.

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