Saturday, 25 August 2007

And finally Henry Wellcome himself...

So now I moved onto an adjacent gallery housing some of the many art objects collected by Henry Wellcome during his lifetime. It was quite chilly in the gallery and that matched the creepy feeling I got when I looked at some of the exhibits. The first to catch my eye was a Chinese torture chair. It resembled a large, upright dining chair with arm rests but the arm rests were pointy blades, and the seat of the chair had blades on it as well. Next to that was a birthing chair which looked almost as bad as the torture chair but without the blades and next to that was a dentist's chair which, although very old, was recognisable as a dentist's chair I may have sat in myself.

Henry Wellcome was born in 1853 in Wisconsin and died in 1936 in London. He established the pharmaceutical company, Burroughs Wellcome & Company with his colleague, Silas Mainville Burroughs. Henry Wellcome was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, patron of science and a pioneer of aerial photography. He bought very widely anything to do with medicine and you can see some of it in this gallery. One of the glass cases which intrigued me was full of prosthetic limbs. There were arms and legs in all shapes and sizes with straps for keeping them in place and they were highly decorated in an attempt to match the real thing. I've no idea how comfortable they were to wear and it's hard to imagine they were anything like the ones made today.

The collection includes many small diagnostic dolls used by Chinese doctors and Japanese sex aids. I gawped at Napoleon's toothbrush and wondered if that was his only toothbrush or if he replaced them as often as we are urged to. I seem to remember that there was a pair of Florence Nightingale's slippers and a sample of George IIIs hair was somewhere but sadly I can't recall it. I do remember the oil paintings which included one of a woman giving birth and one large painting of a surgeon gazing towards a window while holding a woman's heart in his hand after he's completed a post mortem on her. At this point I felt a bit queasy and was ready to leave the building.

No comments: