Skip to content

My Own Personal Ghost (Tableau IV)

My Own Personal Ghost (Tableau IV)

David Ross Harper
My Own Personal Ghost (Tableau IV), 2016
Embroidery on Giclee print
49 x 64 inches

Ruane Center for the Humanities, Lower Level

About the Work

David Ross Harper uses art historical imagery to show how cultural mores change with time and place. To create this artwork, Harper reproduced Rembrandt’s iconic 1632 painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. Alluding to 17th-century anatomy lessons, which were social occasions that took place in theatres in front of paying students, colleagues, and the public, Rembrandt depicts a doctor explaining arm musculature to a group of well-dressed men. As if ready for dissection, the cadaver—the body of a convicted and executed criminal—lays all but nude before the spectators. In My Own Personal Ghost (Tableau IV), Harper covers the cadaver from head to toe with elaborately patterned embroidery, suggesting that this body, which belonged to a real person, deserves dignity. Cadavers now come from people who donate their body to science upon death, rather than taken from those who cannot consent.