A dog on a laboratory bench sits up and begs the prospective vivisector for mercy. Engraving by C.J. Tomkins, 1883, after a painting by J. McClure Hamilton.

  • Hamilton, John McLure, 1853-1936.
23 June 1883
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About this work


If at first the subject appears to be a man benignly considering a begging dog, its pathetic nature is increased when the surgical instruments and body of a bird identify the setting as a vivisector's laboratory. The man holds a bottle behind his back in an apparently playful manner, but the dog is not begging for this but rather for his life. The bottle may contain an anaesthetic so that the vivisector's experiment, if lethal, would not be painful. The issue of vivisection was a topical one in the late nineteenth century. The artist may have been directly inspired by a contemporary account by the anti-vivisectionist George Hoggan of the reaction of the dogs that were brought to the laboratory of the French vivisectionist, Claude Bernard: "They would make friendly advances to each of the three or four persons present, and as far as eyes, ears and tail could make a mute appeal for mercy eloquent, they tried it in vain." (Schupbach 1987, p. 351.)


London (6 Pall Mall) : Henry Graves & Co., 23 June 1883.

Physical description

1 print : engraving ; image 48.6 x 34.3 cm


Vivisection ; J. McLure Hamilton 1882 ; Painted by J. McLure Hamilton ; Engraved by Cha<rle>s J. Tomkins The artist's name appears twice: signature and date at the lower right of image; name at the lower left of sheet, below the image

References note

W. Schupbach, "A select iconography of animal experiment," in Vivisection in historical perspective, ed. N. A. Rupke, London and New York 1987, pp. 350-351, no. 3, pl. 3


Wellcome Collection 25933i

Reproduction note

The original was exhibited in London in the autumn of 1885 with the title "Vivisection - the last appeal"



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