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Ivory female anatomical figure, Europe, undated

  • Science Museum, London
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Credit: Ivory female anatomical figure, Europe, undated. Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Female ivory anatomical models of this type were popular in the 1600s and 1700s, and were almost always shown as pregnant. In this example the foetus is shown in the uterus, ready to be born. It is connected to the mother by an umbilical cord made from red thread. Carved from ivory, representations of the heart, lungs and liver can also be seen. These anatomical figures normally came in male and female pairs. The organs are not very detailed so it is unlikely that the model was made for medical teaching. The figure was possibly used to teach young couples about anatomy and pregnancy or it may have been a collector’s item.

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