Alphonse is…oh, never mind.

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Sometimes Ruysch took his preserved specimens and arranged them in miniature scenes. His favorite subjects for these displays were the tiny skeletons of fetuses. He liked to pose them, fully articulated, in miniature gardens, whose every element was fashioned out of various pieces of preserved organs…Ruysch’s favorite subject was lamentation. In one scene, a skeleton plays a violin, made out of diseased bone, with a bow of dried artery. “Ah fate, bitter fate!” he sings, while another skeleton conducts music with a baton set with kidney stones. A third skeleton, wearing a belt of sheep intestine, grasps a spear made of a hardened vas deferens. In others, the skeletons hold mayflies or scythes. In another tableau, two skeletons standing on a mountain of kidney stones, surrounded by miniature trees made out of the branching fronds of hardened arteries, weep into handkerchiefs made from abdominal membranes. The message these tiny figures convey is all the same: that their first hour was also their last. Ruysch took special care in preparing the membranes to make to make their delicate blood vessels look like embroidery. They reminded him of Psalm 139: “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.”

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