Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian dressing a chest wound. Oil painting by Antoine de Favray, 1748.

  • Favray, Antoine de, 1706-1798.
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About this work


Saints Cosmas and Damian practised medicine and surgery without payment according to their legend, and were therefore represented to the lay public as medical ideals. This painting shows one of the saints using a bullet extractor to remove a foreign body from a man's chest, and the other one assisting with prayer. On the table is a travelling case of surgical instruments with a lid that flips open, and to the right of it a round box partitioned to hold different ointments used in surgery.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were prominent in Malta. "The association of the medical practitioners and barbers [in Malta] was the Guild of the brothers, Saints Cosmas and Damian. This guild had an altar, which is still in existence, dedicated to the two saints in the church of St Francis, in Kingsway, Valletta. The altarpiece is a painting by Filippo Paladini (1564-1614?) and bears the date 1612. One of the saints is depicted carrying a book in one hand while his brother holds an ointment or medicine box with small partitions one of which contains a bone elevator. On a shelf by his side is the 'triploide', an instrument used for the elevation of depressed fragments of bone from the skull. In the foreground, to the left, lies the patient with a bandage round his head. The saints' feast was celebrated with great pomp and solemnity on the 27th September …"--Cassar loc. cit.



Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 85.7 x 119.5 cm


A. Favray 1748

References note

Paul Cassar, Medical history of Malta, London 1965, pp. 485-486


Wellcome Collection 44856i

Creator/production credits

The author of this painting was Antoine de Favray (1706-1798), a French artist who studied in Italy and travelled to Turkey, but spent most of his long career in Malta. There he worked for the Knights of Malta (Knights Hospitallers, or Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem), and became a knight of the order himself. The order was a religious and charitable organization which concerned itself with hospitals for the sick and wounded, with defending the Christian Mediterranean against the Muslim Turks, and with magnificent adornments to the churches of Malta. The order maintained a large infirmary at Valletta consisting of eleven wards and a chapel. There were beds for five hundred patients who dined off silver salvers served by the Knights. It is quite likely that Favray's painting originally hung in that infirmary

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