Monday, March 10, 2014

The Wound Man

The Wound Man Illustrations
The Wound Man is a form of illustration which appeared in late 15th through 16th century medical texts.  This poor, illustrated fellow is covered in various injuries—arrows and swords stuck in him, clubs and hammers imbedded in his skin, and spears perforating various parts of his anatomy—all of which were (theoretically) treatable by a learnéd surgeon.

The Wound Man, from the Feldtbuch der Wundartzney by Hans von Gersdorff, 1517.  Oil on Canvas.

Characteristics of the Wound Man Illustration are the naked (or bikini clad) figure and (as seen) the quantity of gruesome wounds depicted.  The injuries which are typically shown include: arrows to the legs — both going through completely and stuck in the muscle, crushing blows to the shoulder and head, lacerations to the shoulder and arms (occasionally severed), stab wounds to the body cavity with a spear, sword, and/or dagger, and stabs and punctures to the feet.  Wound Man illustrations also depict—especially later ones—gunshot holes or, as in the one shown, cannonball wounds.  One example shows the unlucky victim, as if he didn’t have enough problems, being bitten by a snake and dog (Bottom).

The Wound Man served as a battle field cheat sheet for surgeons.  At this time, Surgeons were not formally trained, but rather served an apprenticeship under a more experienced medical practitioner.  Showing the wounds they may see and be expected to heal, the illustration served as a condensed cure sheet.  In a time when seconds  could mean life for death for multiple patients, quick treatment was important.  Often the illustration was accompanied by descriptions of the wound, and possibly how to treat it.  One of the differentials that was of importance was the penetration of arrows, depending on whether the barbed head was imbedded in the muscle, or if the victim was lucky, gone all the way through, which could make quite a difference in the treatment.


Bibliography:  Surgical Education in the Middle Ages by MICHAEL Mc VAUGH

© John Frey, 2014.  The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. Photographs are from the internet, and do not belong to me.

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