Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.
© Caroline Heinecke - Master of Things: Different gallstones numbered for archiving purposes

Remarkable objects from the human body that look like sweets – The Gallstone Collection of Navena Widulin

Dec 22, 2020 - Caroline Heinecke

They love women and cholesterol and nobody wants them, except Ms Widulin from Berlin. The taxidermist collects gallstones and thus continues an old tradition in the museum laboratory of the Berlin Medical History Museum of the Charite. The founder of the museum, Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), collected like possessed the diseases of the human body in the form of wet and dry preparations in almost unimaginable quantities”. The ball was set rolling by accidental discoveries during clinical autopsies. According to the clinic’s conception, these are usually disposed of, but Ms Widulin took a liking to the little organ jewels. Instead of throwing them away, the Berliner started collecting them about two decades ago and gave them their own place in the museum laboratory. The unloved foundlings are lovingly washed, dried, stowed in transparent containers and labelled with case numbers. In shape and colour, the stones are as individual and multi-faceted as their bearers themselves.

In the meantime, the Berlin-based artist has already collected 3,000 crystalline beauties from various bodies, the oldest specimens being urinary bladder stones from a 33-year-old man in 1793. Thus the stone companions outlive their creators by hundreds of years. But what might have been considered a treasure back then can be considered commonplace in today’s stone-rich Germany, where about twenty percent of the population carry solidified bile inside them, primarily in the rest of the women. It is therefore not surprising that the taxidermist’s collection is considered one of the largest in the world, exceeding one hundred thousand, although the total number of stones is not quantified.

© Caroline Heinecke - Master of Things, Navena Widulin, taxidermist at the Medical History Museum of Charite Berlin