A British soldier wounded at the Battle of Waterloo
Watercolour by the surgeon Charles Bell, 1815
This is one of a series of watercolours by the surgeon Charles
Bell (1774-1842) of wounded soldiers from the battle of Waterloo.
Bell had hurried from London to Brussels in June 1815 to assist in
treating the wounded; at the same time he filled a sketchbook
with interesting cases which were subsequently worked up as
watercolour paintings for teaching purposes.
This man had received a very serious gunshot wound to the skull,
causing extrusion of brain tissue. The picture clearly shows the
cross-shaped surgical cut of the skin around the wound, made in
order to remove damaged bone fragments. Unfortunately such an
injury provided an avenue for infection of the central nervous
system which surgeons at the time were powerless to prevent. Sure
enough this patient died six days after Bell sketched him. His
staring eyes and flushed appearance are indicative of meningeal
irritation, or inflammation of the lining of the brain.