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The Sick Rose: 10 beautifully gruesome medical illustrations

Ten strangely fascinating illustrations of disease in a time before colour photography.

The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose by Richard Barnett is a strangely fascinating, often gruesome, visual tour through disease in a time before colour photography.

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Produced for 19th Century medical books, these detailed illustrations helped doctors to record, understand and treat the terrible diseases of the day. They were essential for teaching students and helping with diagnosis and, although now mostly consigned to history books, they’re a vivid reminder of the frailty of the human body and the tireless work of doctors through the ages.

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A 23-year-old Viennese woman depicted before and after contracting cholera in the first European epidemic in 1831

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A man named as Mr Gledell suffering from a ‘rodent ulcer’ – now known as a basal cell carcinoma

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A patient with foreheard tumours, painted by Lam Qua at a hospital in the Chinese city of Canton

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The hands of a patient with paronychia, an infection of the nails associated with tertiary syphilis

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A male patient with erythema covering his abdomen and armpit

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A man with a large pendent face tumour, painted by Lam Qua at a hospital in the Chinese city of Canton

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A thirteen-year-old girl with leprous lesions affecting her face

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A boy with an extensive ringworm infection of the scalp

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Hand-drawn and textured pages from a rare Japanese treatise on smallpox – ‘The Essentials of Smallpox’ – written in the late 17th or early 18th Century by the Japanese doctor Kanda Gensen

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A thirteen-year-old boy with severe untreated leprosy

The Sick Rose is published by Thames & Hudson at £19.95
All images courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London


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