29 Anatomical Models That Will Haunt Your Dreams Tonight

By Attila Nagy on at

Since the early days of medicine, it's been a huge challenge to communicate anatomical discovery with an audience without any actual human dissection. But thanks to the creativity of the medical experts and artists, there exist a huge variety of anatomical models from wax figures and ivory manikins to papier maché dolls and multi-colour portfolio prints.

The following beautiful and morbid pieces were made from the highest scientific and artistic design, and range from small organs to full anatomical figures, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. They often consist of removable parts that could be "dissected" to reveal the inner workings of the mysterious human body.


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29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

This is an extremely rare Japanese model of a human body made of copper, lacquer, wood, and other materials, from 1669. The model combines Asian and Western medical knowledge.
Photo: Museum of Ethnology, Hamburg/Virtual Collection Of Asian Masterpieces


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

An advertising brochure by Bayer, circa 1930, overlays the bodily systems on each page.
Scan and gif: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A 72-inch-tall polychrome plaster anatomical model has removable arms, and the torso opens to reveal removable organs. It was made in the early 20th century by Maison Deyrolle in Paris.
Photo: Christie's


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A carved ivory, wood and glass anatomical model of an eye. German, probably late 17th century.
Photo: Christie's


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A carved boxwood model of a head and the facial muscles, from 19th century Italy, sits only three inches tall.
Photo: Christie's


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A life-sized, intricately detailed papier-mâché anatomical model, devised and created by the French physician Dr. Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux, circa 1882.
Photo: Bonhams


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A wax anatomical half model of the torso of a pregnant woman, from early 19th century France.
Photo: Bonhams


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A three-quarter length male anatomical model, probably French, 19th century.
Photo: Bonhams


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

An Adam Rouilly & Co. painted plaster anatomical model of a male torso. English, circa 1900.
Photo: Bonhams


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Anatomical models of a male body with chromolothograph cut-outs and overlay displays, edited by W.S.Furneaux, published by George Philip & Son, London.
Source: Bonhams


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

This anatomical rubber and bone model of an infant skeleton dates from the 1920s or '30s.
Photo: Bonhams


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

An antique carved Chinese human acupuncture model.
Photo: Live Auctioneers


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Smith's outlined paper maps of the human system, published by American Manikin Co., Peoria, Illinois, 1888.
Photo: Live Auctioneers


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Anatomical figure of a woman, made by Clay-Adams Co., Inc., New York.
Source: Live Auctioneers


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Life-size chromolithographed manikin with numerous overlays revealing the anatomical make-up of a man, mounted on board frame. Publisher: James T. White, New York, 1886.
Source: Live Auctioneers


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

These male and female anatomical dolls, made of ivory, are each less than seven inches tall. Circa 1400.
Photo: Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A grotesque anatomical and astrological doll at the Museum of Hygiene, Munich, Germany.
Photo: Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Ivory anatomical model of a pregnant woman at the Deutsche Historishes Museum.
Photo: Will Manley


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Dr. Auzoux's papier-mâché pregnancy model at the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, the Netherlands. Circa 1875-1900.
Photo: Museum Boerhaave/Wikimedia Commons


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

A mid-19th century wax specimen by Joseph Towne, at the Gordon Museum, Kings College, London, UK.
Photo: Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

"Anatomical Venuses" were life-sized wax anatomical models of idealised women, extremely realistic in appearance and often adorned with real hair and ornamental jewellery. This is "La Venerina," a wax anatomical model by Clemente Susini, from the 18th century.
Photo: Museo delle Cere anatomiche "Luigi Cattaneo"


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

These 19th century pregnant dolls from Japan were created primarily to teach midwives how to deliver babies, but they were probably used for entertainment purposes as well.
Photo: Geijutsu Shincho magazine, July 2001/Pink Tentacle


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Photo: Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham/National Library of Medicine

29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

These mannequins, between six to seven inches in length, were made from solid pieces of ivory in 16th through 18th century Europe. 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 here they are formed into separate pieces that can be removed.
Photo: Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham/National Library of Medicine


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Stephan Zick's anatomical manikin made of ivory, mid-17th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.
Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Male anatomic torso with exposed ribs and muscles. Carved Linden wood, early 18th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.
Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Demonstration doll for the presentation of the acupuncture points (China, 20th century). From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest.
Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


29 Anatomical Models From the Early Days of Modern Medicine

Here's another life-sized wax "anatomical Venus," from the workshop of Felice Fontana, Florence, Italy, circa 1780-1785. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest.
Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo