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William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration.

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Credit: William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

About this work


William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration to six spectators in the anatomy-theatre of the Barber-Surgeons' Company, London, ca. 1730/1740. Oil painting attributed to Charles Phillips. William Cheselden was a leading English surgeon in the reign of George II, practising in the London of William Hogarth, Sir Isaac Newton and Alexander Pope. He was a member of the Barber-Surgeon's company, based in London near the Barbican. The company's building included an anatomy theatre designed by Inigo Jones, constructed in 1636 and demolished in 1784. The painting probably shows Cheselden in that anatomy theatre, demonstrating privately to a group of his colleagues or to interested gentlemen. Cheselden was one of those who concluded that Henry VIII's union of the company of barbers with the guild of surgeons in the Barber-Surgeon's company had had its day, and that the two guilds should separate. The group that seceded in 1745, known as the Company of Surgeons, built its new hall, called Surgeons' Hall, in Old Bailey, including a new anatomy theatre at Cheselden's stipulation. The Company of Surgeons was a predecessor of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which is today the main support organization for surgeons in England and Wales.


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