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VLST Lecture Series: Susanna Berger, "On the Method of Bartisch's Ophthalmodouleia"

Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 4:00pm

Cohen 402

Co-sponsored with the Visual Studies department.  Although historians of art and science have largely overlooked the eye surgeon Georg Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst (Ophthalmodouleia, that is, the treatment of the eyes,1583), the work’s elaborate woodcuts as well as its author’s exceptional involvement in their production call for closer examination. The prints, which Bartisch (1535–1607) claims to have designed himself, show the anatomy of the eye and brain as well as ocular afflictions or abnormalities and their remedies. Others feature the forms of tools, apparatuses, and treatments that physicians should use. Some visualize the connections between body parts and celestial signs as well as the appropriate vessels to bleed for treatments of the eyes. Still others show the uses of scarifications and cupping for vision, pendants and treasures thought to be good for sight, and the forms of glasses, jars, and containers in which to store medicines and instruments. An overview of the book’s text and images, along with Bartisch’s surviving drawings for an earlier, unpublished manuscript, teases out his ideas about the uses of visual representations in the creation and dissemination of medical knowledge. A distinctnexus of interest is Bartisch’s characterization of his prints through the notion of the “counterfeit image,” a genre of representation based either on unmediated observation of a specimen or on another image drawn in the immediate presence of an object. In comparing Bartisch’s visual representations with works by Caspar Stromayr (d. 1566/67), Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566), and Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), I demonstrate that because the stakes of his remedies are so high, and oculists and barber surgeons were viewed with tremendous suspicion in his day, Bartisch developed methods to convince his readers that he was an authoritative source.