New arrivals!

Photos: WUM Photomedical Department

We have just received new deposits – these are pre-war anatomical models that were lent to us thanks to the courtesy of the head of the Department of Human  and Clinical Anatomy, prof. Bogdan Ciszek. Made of plaster (often with the addition of “mache” paper) and hand-painted, such models became popular teaching materials for the study of anatomy in the early 20th century and a practical replacement for hard-to-reach human corpses.

All three models will be a great addition to our permanent exhibition, which opens in winter 2021. One of them is the male figure shown in photos 1 and 2 with exposed muscles. The left arm is raised with the arm bent at the elbow. The right arm is slightly bent, pointing down with the palm of the hand up. The leg position causes the hips to twist. This position allows one to define and visualize detailed muscle groups of the arms and legs, upper chest and hips both when stretched and tense (on the left side of the figure), and flexed and slightly relaxed (on the right side of the model). From the 18th century onwards, this kind of representation of an anatomically refined “muscle man” has been reffered to by the French term écorché (skinned) in both art history and medicine.

The earliest confirmed artistic representations of écorchés come from the Renaissance period. Many écorché drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) have survived, for example the study of the arm with its arm stretched downwards in four positions (1509–1510. Other famous examples are Jean Antoine Houdon’s Ecorche from 1767, St. Bartholomew “Marco d ‘Agrate from 1562 or” Smugglerius “by William Pink from 1864.

All these famous Ecorches  along with photos have been posted in the Art — Works of Art section of this website.

Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty, Myologie complette en couleur et grandeur naturelle : composée de l’Essai et de la Suite de l’Essai d’anatomie, en tableux imprimés [d’après les parties disséquées et préparées], 1746

Photos: Wellcome Collection

One of the most famous eighteenth-century anatomical atlases, which was created with the participation of the graphic artist and anatomist Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty (1716-1785). The main task of this work was to facilitate the study of anatomy for students of medicine, surgery, painting and sculpture. In the creation of this work and other anatomical atlases, Gautier d’Agoty collaborated with Jacques Francois Duverney, a Parisian surgeon and anatomy demonstrator at the Jardin du Roy. As far as the medical value of the content of the atlas is concerned, it was small in the eyes of specialists and has added nothing significant to science since the time of Vesalius. On the other hand, the illustrations that complemented it were extremely valuable. They were made using the mezzotint method, which Gautier d’Agoty learned from his master Jacob Christoph Le Blon, enriching them later with the addition of black. The anatomical pictures from Myologie complette aroused much controversy in the 18th century. They were attributed to sublime drama, artistic arrogance, and sometimes even an insult to Christian morality. The realistic close-ups of female and male genitals depicted next to each other were particularly controversial. In some cases, they were read as disguised personal erotic fantasies of the artist. It seems, however, that in this way he rather wanted to draw the attention of influential personalities to his works, which could have positively influenced the expansion of his printing activities. Today, due to the characteristic style and extremely original compositions, Gautier d’Agoty is considered to be the progenitor of surrealism.

Open lecture: “Viruses and epidemics – a trending topic”

On behalf of the Museum of the History of Medicine of the Medical University of Warsaw and the honorable speaker – dr hab. n. med. Tomasz Dzieciatkowski, we are honored to cordially invite you to an open lecture entitled “Viruses and epidemics – a trending topic”. It will be the first in a series of ten lectures carried out as part of the project “Learn the secrets of the human body in the anatomical theater of the 21st century”. Continue reading “Open lecture: “Viruses and epidemics – a trending topic””

Andreas Vesalius, De Humanis Corporis Fabrica, 1543

Source: Public domain

The most famous anatomical textbook of the modern era. Written by Andreas Vesalius from Brussels, educated in Paris and professor in University of Padua. It summarizes the years of entire human research that led to the challenging of medical science in Galen’s day. It became possible thanks to the regular dissections of human corpses by Vesalius. The work of De Humanis Corporis Fabrica contains 273 illustrations. Their author was most likely Titian’s student Jan Stefan von Calcar. The characters presented by him are characterized by dynamics and, above all, diversity. Both the skeletons and flayed ecorché were captured in a pensive or dancing pose. All the drawings are distinguished by an extremely perfect observation of the muscular system, a precise capture of the structure of nerves, vessels and bones. No one before Vesalius has combined medicine and art so closely in one work, therefore the question is often asked who played a greater role in its creation, the doctor or the artist. The work, thanks to the print, was very quickly disseminated in Europe. It was enthusiastically received in many circles, but there were also voices of criticism that did not approve of the progress of science captured in it.

Guido de Vigevano, Anothomia Philippi Septimi , 1345

Source: Public domain

The work of Queen Jeanne de Bourgogne’s personal physician Guido de Vigevano (c. 1280 – c. 1349) was dedicated to the King of France, Philip VI. It is one of the most interesting 14th-century manuscripts dedicated to human anatomy. He refers directly to the Galen manuscripts and the teachings of the mentor Vigevano Mondino de Luzzi. Especially valuable are the illustrations contained in it, which were created thanks to the experience of this physician in carrying out an autopsy on human corpses, although they were officially prohibited during his lifetime. In one of the drawings the human body is even shown on the “autopsy” table, so that the corpse and the anatomist standing next to it occupy two planes next to each other. The next pictures show the anatomy of the abdomen, chest and head, and this is the most famous anatomy of a woman’s body with a visible “seven-chambered” uterus in reference to Galen’s hypothesis. In Vivegano’s work there are also drawings showing treatments carried out on living patients. All pictures are highly schematic and with low precision. In 1926, Vigevano’s work was reissued in color by the French librarian and historian of medicine Ernest Wickersheime.

Edouard Pernkopf, Topographische Anatomie des Menschen : Lehrbuch und Atlas der regionär-stratigraphischen Präparation. B. 1. Hälfte 1, Allgemeines, Brust und Brustgliedmasse

Without a doubt, the most controversial anatomical atlas in the history of medicine. Its author was the Austrian anatomist and rector of the University of Vienna Edouard Pernkompf (1888-1955). He invited four artists who were responsible for the preparation of the illustrative material of the Atlas. Initially, in the years 1937-1941, two volumes  devoted to the anatomy and muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and pelvic limbs, respectively, were published. The album was famous for its amazingly beautiful, colorful drawings and from a scientific point of view it was a scientific masterpiece. His assessment was overshadowed by the affiliation of Pernkompf and his assistants to the Nazi party, which was revealed in the album itself by the Nazi symbolism emphasized in many places. The use of the bodies of WWII victims and Nazi ideology for dissection was even more controversial. After the end of the war, Pernkopf stayed in an Allied prison for several years, then returned to work on the next volumes of the atlas. In 1952, the third part devoted to the head and neck was published, while the devil appeared after his death. In total, in the second half of the 20th century, the Pernkopf Atlas was published in five language versions.

Mondino de Luzzi (Mundinus), Anathomia Mundini, 1316 (printed in 1476)

Source: Public domain

The first work on anatomy since ancient times based on the results of an autopsy. Its author, Mondino de Luzzi (1270-1320), called the “restorer of anatomy”, received his medical education at the University of Bologna. During Mundinus’ lifetime, performing an autopsy was not the basis of medical training, but this did not prevent him from being the first physician to perform an autopsy since the times of Herophilus and Erastritos in Alexandria in the 3rd century BC. His life’s work “Anathomia”, was not however, an original work, as it was based primarily on knowledge from the times of Galen and on the results of research from the various Arab schools. In several places the author allowed himself, but very carefully, to undermine Galen’s authority, but this did not translate into the whole work. Mundinus’ descriptions were also imprecise, and the illustrations supporting them did not reflect the exact structure of individual organs and their arrangement in the cavities of the human body. This was due to the fact that dissection at that time was more like quartering and had nothing to do with professional preparation of the body. The preparations he prepared for educational purposes were dried, for example, in the sun in order to show the structure of tendons and ligaments. Until the sixteenth century, however, “Anathomy” was the most widely published publication in universities on the structure of the human body.

Powązki 2020

Once again, employees of the Museum of the History of Medicine of the Medical University of Warsaw, together with representatives of the Students Union of our University, visited the graves of professors and doctors associated with the Medical University of Warsaw. During the visit, candles were lit and flowers laid over 30 graves located in two of the most famous Warsaw cemeteries: Old Powązki and Powązki Military.

The yearly event was carried out a week before All Saints’ Day. During its duration, we lit symbolic lamps on the graves, laid flowers – and, if necessary, also cleaned the graves.

Among the graves visited, we could not miss the graves of four outstanding representatives of the world of Warsaw anatomy and pathology: Edward Loth, Witold Sylwanowicz, Ludwik Paszkiewicz and Wiktor Garówka-Dąbrowski, whose graves are presented in the photos below.

The graves of professors and medics distinguished for the Medical University of Warsaw were found thanks to the support of Dr. Adam Tyszkiewicz, director of the Museum of the History of Medicine, who briefly introduced the participants to the profiles of each of the visited figures resting on both necropolises.

Jean-Antoine Houdon, Écorché (Flayed Man), 1767, French Academy in Rome

Source: Public domain

One of the most famous images of Écorché in modern art. The sculpture was made by the artist at the age of 25 in Rome, as a preparatory study for the marble statue of St. John the Baptist, which was to become a pendant for the sculpture of St. Bruno in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Houdon attended an anatomy course in Rome, accompanied dissections on human corpses, and diligently studied anatomical drawings in order to accurately depict the sculpture of a man’s physique. The work he created is characterized not only by a very faithful representation of the muscles, but also by an animated pose. The man’s right hand is stretched horizontally in front of him – in a gesture of blessing, which was to be repeated in the figure of St. John the Baptist. Écorché’s weight rests on his left foot, and the right leg is grasped slightly bent with the foot slightly raised, suggesting a step forward that is about to take place. The work was quickly recognized as a separate work of art. Charles Natoire, the director of the French Academy in Rome, acquired it and included it in the collection of plaster casts. Natoire’s successor as director of the Academy, the famous painter Joseph Marie Vien, ordered all students to study this work on a compulsory basis. Houdon himself, realizing that his anatomical sculpture was such a great success, made numerous copies of it in Rome and later in Paris, which enjoyed great popularity in Europe. Especially popular with collectors and art lecturers was the Écorché variant with the hand raised. Houdon’s anatomical works were also copied many times after his death.

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Vitruvian Man, 1490, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

Source: Public domain

Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci “The Vitruvian Man” is dated to around 1490. It’s author presented on paper, with a pencil, a naked figure of a man in two superimposed positions with arms and legs apart, and at the same time inscribed in a circle and a square. The drawing refers to the “De Architectura” treatise (datedbetween 30 and 15 BC), created by the famous Roman architect Vitruvius. This ancient work discusses the human body in the context of the search for perfect proportions, which drew the attention of Leonardo, fascinated by human anatomy. Da Vinci believed that the functioning of the human body can be compared to the operation of the microcosm against the backdrop of the universe. On this basis, for example, he juxtaposed the human skeleton with the rocks of the planet, and the action of the lungs during breathing with the ebb and flow of the oceans. The drawing of the Vitruvian Man is stored in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and is very rarely shown at exhibitions.