Wax model of a decomposing body in a walnut coffin, Italy, 1774-1800

Made:
1774-1800 in Italy
maker:
Unknown

Creative Commons LicenseThis image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Creative Commons LicenseThis image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Late 18th century Italian wax model of a decomposing body in a walnut coffin

The body in this wooden coffin is in a severe state of decomposition. It may have had two purposes: as ‘memento mori’, a reminder of death, or as a teaching aid. The figure is surrounded by three frogs. Frogs are symbols of rebirth and regeneration because they change so much in their lifetimes.

Wax modelling was used in Europe to create religious effigies. From the 1600s, they were also used to teach anatomy. The creation of wax anatomical models, centred in Italy, was based on observing real corpses. The museum known as La Specola, or ‘the observatory’, in Florence was famous for its wax collection.

Details

Category:
Anatomy & Pathology
Object Number:
A128411
Materials:
body, wax, coffin, walnut, frogs, wax, lining, cloth, worms, wax
Measurements:
overall (open, without lid): 82 mm x 296 mm x 118 mm,
overall (closed): 131 mm x 296 mm x 118 mm, .624 kg
type:
anatomical figure
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • medical demonstration equipment
credit:
Koch, H.C.
status:
Loan: Wellcome Trust

Cite this page

Rights

We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.


Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero


Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data

Download

Download catalogue entry as json

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.