The Medicine Faculty of Complutense University in Madrid safeguards many waxworks that were once used as Anatomy manuals, now waiting to be displayed properly. But when did this habit start and why?
They call it “La parturienta”, “the one who’s giving birth”, at the Facultad de Medicina de la Complutense. She looks like a real woman, human-sized.
But she is not only a statue. She – without a name - was a woman who was run down on the street, pregnant, while walking in front of the Real Colegio de Cirugía de San Carlos (Surgery Hospital) in Madrid, in the XVIII Century.
The head reclined like she’s asleep, her belly wide opened with a baby inside, clearly almost at term. However she isn’t the most interesting piece of the collection: in the past, surgeons didn’t have any other way to study anatomy than learning from corpses (like Michelangelo did). Soon there started to be a scarcity of corpses – for hygiene and legal reasons – the practice of molding bodies into wax statues began.
The practice of studying anatomy straight from corpses comes from Italy, where Carlos III learned it and brought it to Spain.
Madrid is not the first city that boasts these kind of statues, Florence and London have them too, but Madrid counts an incredible variety of them, from 2,000 skulls, to statues with hearts on the right side of the body or with two penises and any sort of other deformity.
Now there is only one step to take: making this collection public (it’s now only for students and groups visiting) so that more and more people can enjoy it.