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The Mysterious World of 17th Century Ivory Anatomical Manikens.

The Mysterious World of 17th Century Ivory Anatomical Manikens (Video)

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Many of us have a fear of mannequins, but their precursors, 17th-century ivory anatomical manikins were even more so. Approximately 100 of these intricate objects exist globally, primarily crafted out of ivory during the late 17th century, with most of them portraying female figures. Their precise purpose remains elusive, yet their allure is undeniable. Stored in institutions like the New York Academy of Medicine, these delicate artifacts offer a captivating glimpse into the mysteries of the human body. While historians speculate that these manikins may have been coveted as status symbols by male physicians, their true significance remains uncertain.

One intriguing account narrates how a pregnant woman was guided through the stages of her pregnancy using one of these enigmatic manikins. When lifting the torso, the intricacies of the human anatomy are revealed layer by layer – from the abdominal wall to the exposed intestines, and finally, the hidden treasure: a fetus. Their mysterious nature and the evident devotion with which they were crafted and positioned add to their allure. These manikins exude a sense of preciousness and are reminiscent of votive offerings. Although their exact purpose may never be fully understood, these objects continue to captivate those who have the opportunity to behold them in person.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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