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Exquisite Bodies

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  • Exhibition
Photograph focussing on one of the exhibits in the exhibition Exquisite Bodies at Wellcome Collection.
Exquisite Bodies exhibition, Dave Sayer. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Despite the best efforts of body snatchers, the demand from medical schools for fresh cadavers far outstripped supply during the 19th century.

One solution to this gruesome problem was the lifelike wax model – an alluring female figure that could be stripped and split into sections. Other models showed the body ravaged by venereal disease, tuberculosis, alcohol and drug addiction. This exhibition explored the forgotten history of the anatomical model, offering a rare insight into 19th-century beliefs about the body. Likely to titillate as much as educate, they became sought-after curiosities, displayed not only in dissecting rooms but also in sideshows and the curiosity cabinets of wealthy Victorian gentlemen.