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Female ivory anatomical figure, Europe, undated

Science Museum, London
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Credit: Female ivory anatomical figure, Europe, undated. Credit: Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Female ivory anatomical figures of this type were popular in the 1600 and 1700s, and were almost always shown as pregnant. In this example the foetus, which is ready to be born, is shown with an umbilical cord made from red thread. The lungs, heart, liver and kidneys are also visible. The lead seal around the neck may have been added by the maker. Such ivory anatomical figures normally came in male and female pairs. The organs are not very detailed so it is unlikely that the model was used for medical teaching. The figure was possibly made to teach young couples about anatomy and pregnancy or it may have been a collector’s item.

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