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Mastectomy. Drawing attributed to a Dutch artist, 17th century.

[between 1600 and 1699]
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Credit: Mastectomy. Drawing attributed to a Dutch artist, 17th century. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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About this work


The operator excises the breast with the "tenaculum helvetianum", presumably to remove breast cancer. His assistant has a case of lancets etc. attached to his belt. A set of cautery irons is smouldering on a stand on the left. The patient is seated, held by two men: she appears to be fainting. On the right, a man in a tall hat points towards her: he is possibly meant to be a physician

The instrument used by the operator is the "tenaculum helvetianum" (tenette helvétienne), as described by Jean-Adrien Helvetius in Traité des pertes de sang .. accompagné de sa lettre sur la nature et guérison du cancer, Paris 1697, pp. 153-155 and folding plate f.p. 153; L. Heister, Institutiones chirurgicae, Amsterdam 1739, vol. 2, pp. 740-741 and tab. XXIII fig. 1. A similar instrument is used by Saint Agatha's torturer in an earlier (ca. 1600?) engraving by Philips Galle


[Place of publication not identified], [between 1600 and 1699]

Physical description

1 drawing : pen and grey ink and grey wash within brown ink framing lines ; sheet 9.9 x 12.8 cm


Wellcome Library no. 528470i


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