Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wellcome Library's Top Ten Images

On Human Impressions

In an article in The Public Domain Review, Catherine Draycott, head of Wellcome Images, describes and briefly discusses the 10 most downloaded images from the 100,000 images that the library released for public consumption earlier this year. Here are three of the top ten images that captured the imagination and hearts of the public. 1.) Paolo Mascagni's Exploded Torso; 2) The Horoscope of Prince Iskandar; and 3) A Head of Writhing Nudes.

1. Paolo Mascagni's Exploded Torso

Paolo Mascagni: From the Anatomia Universa [1823-31], which contains 44 hand-painted slides of the human anatomy. As Prosector of Anatomy at the University of Siena, Paolo Mascagni "was  responsible for leading dissection for demonstration and research," notes the Wellcome Library, which adds:

"The main figure here is surrounded by smaller studies. At the top of the plate, the hearts have had the 'epicardium', the outer layer of heart tissue, removed to reveal the cardiac muscle. The heart at the bottom left is viewed from above to reveal the aortic valve. The smaller figures are foetal dissections revealing the umbilical artery and vein."
Wellcome Library, London

Illustration of human viscera by Paulo Mascagni, from his Anatomia Universa (1823-31) – Source: Wellcome Library, London. - See more at:

 2. The Horoscope of Prince Iskandar

The Birth of Iskandar (1384): The personal horoscope of Prince Iskandar, grandson of
Tamerlane, the Turkman Mongol conqueror
. The Wellcome Library writes:
"This horoscope shows the positions of the heavens at the moment of Iskandar's birth on 25th April
1384. This is a fly leaf from the personal horoscope of Iskandar Sultan (died 1415), grandson of
Timur, who ruled the province of Farsin, Iran. He is best known for his early military career
and his patronage of the arts and sciences. "
Source: Wellcome Library, London

3. A Head of Writhing Nudes

Filippo Balbi's Testa anatomica (1854):Wellcome Library describes it as a "profile view of male human head composed of writhing, apparently tormented naked men."
Wellcome Library, London
Many of the remaining top ten images represent depictions of human anatomy, which says much about our interest in the human body when presented in a particular stylized form and when done by the human hand in painstaking detail.

You can view and read more about the rest of the images at [PubDomRev]

1. Paolo Mascagni’s Exploded Torso