14 March 2015

Exploring art and medicine, week 3

Entrance to pathology museum, St Bartholomew's Hospital
Over the door it says "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do / do it with thy might"

In a niche on the stairwell:
"This Roman sarcophagus
 with another of the same kind
was discovered in digging the
foundation of the Library in
December 1877."
No photography allowed in the pathology museum, a large light room with two tiers of galleries around it, and specimens spaciously displayed; these photos are from the internet -
At one end is a bust of Paget, at the other, of John Hunter. Recent displays include the "Death under Glass" histology exhibition, and a series of drawings from the 1880s, and it was from these that we started drawing (you can just about see them in the photo on the right, their stands making little bays).

On the left, the "meet and greet" quick drawing(s); then on the right, a closer look -
Repetitive strain injury, and rheumatoid arthritis, affecting the hands of a woman who worked as a ropemaker. What a story you can build up as you draw.

Another drawing, a watercolour, was of gouty nodules on the hand of a woman. Painted in red and yellow, they looked like large bejewelled rings at first glance, and she's wearing a wedding ring ... probably impossible to remove at this stage of the disease -
On the right, a preserved gouty hand, the nodules stretching the skin - "gouty deposits of unusual extent ... chalky masses varying greatly in size ... uratic deposits spread into tissues near joints".

I was fascinated by the refractions and reflections within the container - the way the hand developed so many fingers within the glass, overpowering the terrible things happening elsewhere -
Away from hands, to an example of scoliosis (sitting between two other spinal deformities, which I would have liked to draw but simply lacked energy to do so). These bones were all black, and the entire effect was of a hybrid, sci-fi creature. The case was about 50cm high, the other cases even smaller.

Next, a series of holes in a long bone - the jawbone of a crocodile, sans teeth, laid on its side on top of a heater under a shelf - not a view you usually get -
And finally, a gentle reminder on the water cooler -

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