Ernst von Bergmann operating in an amphitheatre. Photogravure, 1907, after F. Skarbina, 1906.

  • Skarbina, Franz, 1849-1910.
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About this work


"… individual surgical centres differed considerably in their techniques [of asepsis] – gloves and masks, for example, were used in some places but not in others. One can speak of veritable local cultures of asepsis. A painting of 1906 by Franz Skarbina (1849–1910) shows how Bergmann's clinic represents one such local culture.The work was commissioned for Ernst von Bergmann's twenty-fifth anniversary as chief surgeon at the Ziegelstrasse Clinic in Berlin. Bergmann died before the picture was finished – followed by the painter not long afterwards. We see the master in a slightly idealised portrait teaching during an operation. The artist shows the instruments on a tray ready for use. On the right-hand side a Schimmelbusch drum takes a prominent place. Everybody involved in the operation wears white surgical gowns, which creates a contrast to the dark tones of the background. There are no surgical gloves shown, nor are masks or hats worn in this image. The scene is set in a semi-public operating theatre. The operation takes place in front of an audience of interested colleagues in street clothes. This was at a time when many of Bergmann's colleagues, in response to a perceived crisis of aseptic surgery, had moved to smaller operating rooms and wore masks and gloves on a routine basis." (Schlich, op. cit. p. 326)


Berlin (W.57) : Rich. Bong Kunstverlag, [1907?]

Physical description

1 print : photogravure ; image and mount 68.9 x 80.8 cm


Ernst von Bergmann in der Königlichen chirurgischen Unversitäts Klinik zu Berlin. Franz Skarbina pinx. Copyright 1907 by Franz Skarbina Berlin.

References note

Thomas Schlich, 'Asepsis and bacteriology: a realignment of surgery and laboratory science', Medical history, 2012, 56: 308-334


Wellcome Collection 574947i

Reproduction note

After: "painting of 1906 by Franz Skarbina (1849–1910), bpk, Berlin painting missing since 1945" (Schlich op. cit. p. 326)



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