The husband of Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (b. 1917) has been criticized recently for staging publicity stunts as the aging star (pictured in her prime and last year) fights for her life. German socialite Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt (b. 1943), whom she married in 1986, has most recently revealed that he wants the 94-year-old to become a mother again! Back in September, he told a German newspaper that he wants to have his wife's body plastinated by Gunther von Hagens when she dies and then put her on show. He says, "My wife has always dreamt that her beauty would be immortal. I would like to show the plastinated body of Zsa Zsa Gabor in the context of a scene in one of her films." Having studied the plastinates in graduate school, I can shed some light on that:
- Gunther von Hagens intends his plastinates to be anatomical entities, hence they are displayed without skin to reveal their underlying organs, vessels, and musculature. He follows aesthetic principles to render them visually pleasing so that we are not put off by the confrontation with our own corporeality and mortality. This would make Gabor's body, now missing a limb, ineligible. As he explains, "The aesthetic pose, which is occasionaly criticized, is what helps dispel revulsion; because it is so powerful, it also promotes emotional awareness.”
- To achieve his goal of using an individual body to represent a universal anatomy, von Hagens strips plastinates of their individual identities (even though he reinvests them with a generic postmortem identity, such as a swimmer or a dancer). In his own words, "Anonymity neutralizes the individual, emotional bonds to the deceased and underscores the change in meaning of a corpse from an object of mourning to one of study."
- For these reasons, I believe von Hagens would find it inappropriate to plastinate the body of a known celebrity. Besides which, although he gratefully accepts body donations, he does not - as far as I know - take on commissions.