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Carved anatomical male figure, Italy, 1801-1900

Carved from boxwood, this anatomical figure showing the muscles without the skin is known as an écorché. Anatomical figures were used to teach medical students anatomy as there was a shortage of bodies available for dissection. Preservation was also difficult. The figures were valued for their visual appeal and were often presented in stylised artistic poses. This example was bought from an Italian collector by one of Henry Wellcome’s collecting agents, Captain Johnston-Saint, in September 1931.

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    Glossary: anatomical figure

    Highly detailed models of the full human figure for artists, teachers and medical practitioners.

    Glossary: anatomy

    A branch of medical science concerned with the structure of living organisms.

    Glossary: dissection

    The cutting apart and separation of body tissues for the purposes of critical examination. Dissection of corpses is often carried out for the study of anatomy.