16th – 18th century
This paper-mache anatomical model, used to reveal the ribs, lungs, heart and arteries, is covered with preserved human skin.
Detached from the body, the (real) human skin may still be used as the (fake) skin of an anatomical model.
Selected from over three hundred examples of tattooed human skins collected by Henry Wellcome, these specimens are most likely to be French in origin and date from 1850-1920.
The tattoos were brought in Paris June 1929 by Petet Jonston-Saint, one of Wellcome’s purchasing agents. The seller was osteologist and anatomist, La Vallete, who obtained some of his collection of specimens through his work at Parisian military establishments and prisons. The crude designs in this selection are mainly of nude female figures, which were often worn by prostitutes as markers of their trade, but were also popular amongst seamen, soldiers and prisoners as reminders of women left behind, or as general sexual fantasies.