Exquisite Bodies

Thursday 30 July 2009 - Sunday 18 October 2009

Exquisite bodies

In the 19th century, despite the best efforts of body snatchers, the demand from medical schools for fresh cadavers far outstripped the supply. One solution to this gruesome problem came in the form of lifelike wax models. These models often took the form of alluring female figures that could be stripped and split into different sections. Other models were more macabre, showing the body ravaged by 'social diseases' such as venereal disease, tuberculosis and alcohol and drug addiction.

With their capacity to titillate as well as educate, anatomical models became sought-after curiosities, displayed not only in dissecting rooms but also in sideshows and the curiosity cabinets of wealthy Victorian gentlemen. For a small admission fee, visitors seeking an unusual afternoon's entertainment could visit displays of these strange dolls in London, Paris, Brussels and Barcelona.

This exhibition explores the forgotten history of the anatomical model, which with its unique combination of serious science and fairground horror provides a rare insight into 19th-century beliefs about the body.

This exhibition is free. See opening hours

Please note that the exhibition contains explicit material that some visitors may find disturbing. As such it is not recommended for under-18s.

However, if you are planning to visit with younger visitors and would like to make an informed decision about the exhibition's suitability, please see our staff at the Information Point, where images of the exhibits are available to view. More information for parents

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