Anna Morandi Manzolini had an untraditional life, even if she was born into a home that believed in the more traditional roles for women: marriage and motherhood. She did marry and have children, but she also created anatomical wax models for scientific purposes, and was an anatomist and anatomical lecturer herself.
Born in 1714 in Bologna, Italy, Anna married her childhood sweetheart in 1736. Her husband, Giovanni Manzolini, was a wax modeler, anatomist, and Professor of Anatomy at the University of Bologna. Anna learned the art of modeling in order to help her husband. Despite her initial fears, she also learned to dissect cadavers. In both of these her skills ultimately surpassed those of her husband, and she became renowned throughout Europe for her skill, scientific knowledge, and attention to detail. After Giovanni’s death in 1755, Anna was made a Lecturer in Anatomy in her own right at the University of Bologna.
Not only a superb modeler who works influenced the scientific community long after her death, Anna’s skill at dissection allowed her to discover a variety of body parts, including eye muscles that were previously unknown. Her talent as an anatomist was ultimately honored by Catherine II of Russia, the British Royal Society, and Emperor Joseph II of Austria. Even the pope at the time, Benedict XIV, awarded her an annual stipend in recognition of her skills.