Since he first perfected his technique for replacing body fluids and fat with a silicone polymer, Gunther Von Hagens has attracted infamy and fascination in equal measure for his production line of corpses frozen in time.
Never before, though, has he turned his attention to a cadaver weighing in excess of a ton and measuring 15ft in height. A female giraffe was unveiled yesterday as the centrepiece of the latest exhibition by the German pathologist turned anatomical showman, to be staged at the O2 – formerly the Millennium Dome – in Greenwich, south-east London, in October.
The giraffe, donated by a zoo after dying naturally, will appear alongside a partially plucked ostrich in a show featuring 200 bodies preserved using the "plastination" process which allows Von Hagens to reveal the anatomy of his subjects.
His specially embalmed bodies are stripped of their skin to reveal the muscle, bone and organs, before being moved into different poses, which their creator insists provides a unique insight into physiology.
Previous exhibitions by Von Hagens, who is referred to as Dr Frankenstein by his critics, have attracted protesters, angry at his treatment of human remains.
The giraffe exhibit, which was produced by Von Hagens at his laboratory in Germany, has been dissected to show the animal's enormous heart and the intricate framework of muscle and bone which support its neck.
All of the animals in the Body Worlds exhibition were donated or purchased after dying natural deaths, following a court case in Germany five years ago when an animal rights group claimed that a plastinated gorilla corpse had been illegally removed from Hanover Zoo. Von Hagens was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The new show will also feature a display about the human life cycle. Von Hagens said: "The exhibition shows the complexity, resilience and vulnerability of the body through anatomical studies of it in distress, disease and optimal health."
The German anatomist has weathered a succession of controversies about his work, including a hotly denied claim that some of the bodies featured in his shows included those of prisoners executed in China.
His company now runs a donor programme allowing people to pledge their remains for use in his exhibitions. So far, nearly 9,000 people worldwide have signed up.Reuse content