Diagnosis dolls: carved figures and anatomical manikins from the past
November 4, 2014 8:29 AM   Subscribe

For centuries, artists have made statues and carvings of human figures for medical purposes, from the Chinese physician's dolls or medical dolls (Google news), used to help doctors work around taboos of giving physical exams to women, to the douningyo or meridian dolls (PDF), used to train people in the ways of acupuncture. But the carvings became quite intricate following De humani corporis fabrica (Wikipedia; translated and annotated online), resulting in miniature anatomical manikins, most often carved from ivory (source).

NIH's U.S. National Library of Medicine has more examples in their Dream Anatomy gallery, with the note
These manikins, between 6 to 7 inches in length, were made from solid pieces of ivory. The arms were carved separately and are moveable. The thoracic and abdominal walls can be removed, revealing the viscera. In some manikins the internal organs are carved in the original block and are not removable, while they are formed into separate pieces that can be removed.
Images one, two, three and four.

Such carved pieces were later replaced when embalming techniques improved, thanks in part to Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch*, "the artist of death."

* NOTE: this site includes images of preserved remains that may be unsettling.
posted by filthy light thief (3 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is a fantastic post! Thank you!
posted by ocherdraco at 9:36 AM on November 4, 2014

This is a truly amazing post! Thank you so much! Especially for the Dream Anatomy Gallery and especially especially for "three", where you can see the little men who pump our lungs and churn our digestive systems and empty our bladders! It's so wonderful I can't stop using exclamation points!
posted by danabanana at 12:59 PM on November 4, 2014

Somehow I missed the little "internal helpers" in the third image from the Dream Anatomy gallery. From what I've seen, that's a unique take on the miniature anatomical manikins. The only other time little people are put inside is for the removable babies in the female versions. Thanks for bringing that to my attention!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on November 4, 2014

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