William Harvey demonstrating the palpitations of the foetal heart of a deer to Charles I. Engraving by H. Lemon, 1851, after an oil painting by R. Hannah, 1848.

  • Hannah, Robert, 1812-1909.
25 March 1851
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In the course of his research for his Exercitationes de generatione animalium (Amsterdam and London 1651), William Harvey, physician to King Charles I, was supplied with vivisection material from the deer stock kept for the royal hunt. In chapter fifty-one of the book, Harvey discusses the manner in which the heart continues to pulsate even when removed from the body. He records displaying this phenomenon to the King in the rudimentary heart of a deer embryo, in chapter sixty-nine: "Having dissected the uterus, I have exposed this Punctum saliens, while it yet continued its palpitation, to the view of our late dread Soveraigne; which was then so small, that without the advantage of the sun-beams obliquely illustrating it, he would not perceived its shivering motion." (English translation from p. 423 of the London 1653 edition: Anatomical exercitations, concerning the generation of living creatures.) Although the subject of Hannah's painting is usually given as Harvey demonstrating to Charles I his theory of the circulation of the blood, the dissected uterus lit by a shaft of light and the deer's head on the table suggests a specific connection to Harvey's vivisection of the royal deer in order to chart the development of the foetus and the passage in his book on the generation of animals in which he describes the sharing of his observations with the King. Other representations of Harvey which refer to his research with deer are the statuette by C. B. Birch of 1886, also in the Royal College of Physicians of London, which shows Harvey with the body of a deer at his feet, and a print (Wellcome Library catalogue no. 17920i) in which Harvey demonstrates to students the circulation of the blood on a deer. Another painting with experimental science as its subject was exhibited by Hannah in 1856: Sir Isaac Newton's observation of the effect of gravity on apples


London (22 Ludgate Hill) : Lloyd, Brothers & Co., 25 March 1851.

Physical description

1 print : engraving ; image 46.3 x 60 cm


Robert Hannah ; Henry Lemon ; Harvey demonstrating to Charles the First his theory of the circulation of the blood Lettering continues: To John Gibbons, Esq<ui>re of Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park, this engraving from the original picture presented by him to his friend Joseph Hodgson, F.R.S. of Westbourne Terrace. Is with permission repectfully dedicated by his obliged and very humble servants Lloyd Brothers & Co.

References note

G. Wolstenhome, ed. The Royal College of Physicians of London: Portraits, 2 vols, London 1964-1977: i, p. 212, no. 5; ii, pp. 46-47, fig. 32
A. H. Driver, Catalogue of the engraved portraits in the Royal College of Physicians of London, London 1952, p. 75, no. 19
A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904, iii, London 1905, p. 376, no. 607
The exhibition of the Royal Academy, 1848. The eightieth, London 1848, p. 29, no. 607


Wellcome Collection 25832i

Reproduction note

After an oil painting by R. Hannah in the Royal College of Physicians of London. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1848 with the title "Harvey demonstrating to Charles I the circulation of the blood from the heart of a deer" and was purchased by John Gibbons who gave it to the surgeon, Joseph Hodgson (1788-1869)



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