There is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.


Obstetric phantom, Italy, 1701-1800Manipulating the cloth ‘baby’ in the womb of this almost life-size model of the female torso shows how birth takes place. It also shows how abnormal positions of the child affect the process. The wood and leather model was used to teach medical students, and possibly midwives, about childbirth. Using instruments to intervene in delivering a live child was still quite rare in the 1700s. Caesarean sections were rarely attempted. The obstetric phantom came from the Hospital del Ceppo in Pistoia, near Florence, Italy. This is one of the earliest hospitals in Europe, founded in 1277.


                                                MALE MUSE

                      In painting, it is soul which speaks to soul.

Eugene Delacroix was among those artists in the nineteenth century who welcomed the discovery of photography. He saw it as something beneficial for art rather than superseding it. Delacroix was the first French painter of quality to espouse openly the idea that photographs were a proper aid for artists . Sometimes, he helped pose models for some of his own photographs.  At least for a few years he used the facilities of an active photographic studio in Paris.

 In 1853, apparently after he became better acquainted with the photographer, Eugene Durieu in Dieppe, his interest in photography increased.   Delacroix stated, “I look enthusiastically and without tiring at these photographs of nude men. This human body, this admirable poem, from which I am learning to read and I learn far more by looking than the inventions of any scribbler could ever teach me”.


Looking into the face of a mass murderer: haunting death mask of William Burke on display in macabre exhibition of medical artefacts

The haunting facial cast of mass murderer William Burke, taken shortly before his execution, is to go on display later this month.

It will be shown alongside Burke’s skeleton at the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomy Museum as part of an exhibition of medical artefacts.

Together with accomplice William Hare, Burke carried out at least 15 murders in the 1820s and sold the bodies for use in anatomy lessons.

When the pair were caught, Hare was offered immunity from prosecution if he confessed and agreed to testify against his former partner. 

Burke was sentenced to death by hanging in 1829, and then publicly dissected at the Edinburgh Medical College. 

The dissecting professor, Alexander Monro, dipped his quill pen into Burke’s blood and wrote, ‘This is written with the blood of Wm Burke, who was hanged at Edinburgh. This blood was taken from his head.’

Edinburgh University’s Museum of Anatomy has now undergone a major revamp, and will open to the public on January 28 – the 183rd  anniversary of Burke’s execution.

More than 40 masks, created from casts taken in both life and death, will be on display. 

Historic faces on show will include Sir Walter Scott, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare and King George III.

Such masks were popular in the 19th century, when they were used in  the now-discredited practice of phrenology. 

This postulated that the shape and size of a person’s skull could help explain their mind and behaviour.

Other artefacts at the museum include 19th century anatomical teaching models made from wax and wood, as well as a preserved body from the late 1790s, which is exhibited alongside an etching carried out when the remains were embalmed.

Visitors to the museum at the Teviot Medical School, which opened in 1884, will also be able to see the  historic anatomy lecture theatre.

Gordon Findlater of the university’s anatomy department said: ‘The museum provides a fascinating insight into how anatomy has progressed from the late 1700s to the present day.’

The Anatomy Museum, in Teviot Place, Edinburgh, will be open to the public on the last Saturday of every month, from 10am-4pm, starting on January 28. 

A definite must-see! Click the photo for more great images!

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