Faculty of Medicine and Surgery
- Library & Museums Subcommittee

Virtual Medical History Museum


Portrait Gallery
Certificate Gallery
Teaching Aids
Instrument Collection

Teaching Models

Wax Models
The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery has among its historical holdings a number of wax models depicting a series of anatomical dissections and dermatological conditions. The origins of the former group have been rather arbitrarily attributed to a donation recorded in 1766. This donation was commented upon by the treasury Commission in a report to the Grandmaster dated 24th April 1766. "We have the honour to report that Anthony Mayer, a Surgeon Major of the Swiss regiment, made a present to the order of nineteen well-made anatomical models in coloured wax and the model of a human body of the same material. These models will help the study of Anatomy during the hot months when dissection is not possible owing to the dangers ensuing from the operating on the dead body in this climate and at that season. We have therefore sent these models to the Hospital, to be placed in the Library. As we should like to show our gratitude to the said Major Mayer, who refuses to accept any compensation for his good work we feel in duty bound to ask Your Eminence to decorate him with the half-cross of our Holy Order and to exempt him from payment of the usual fee". The petition was granted on the 15th March 1766. Another teaching model brought to Malta around 1772 was the obstetric model brought by the surgeon Dr. Giuseppe Antonio Creni from Bologna with which he proposed imparting instruction to prospective midwives. The latter model may have been one produced by Anna Manzolini [1716-1774] who had surpassed her husband in the production of anatomic wax models. In 1755, she was elected Fellow of the University of Bologna and a member of the Academy Clementine. Still later she was assigned a chair of anatomy - all unprecedented signal honours for a woman in the 18th century. Her renown as a wax modeller prompted numerous and enticing invitations from London, Milan and St. Petersburg, but she steadfastly refused to leave her native city.

Mayer's donation of high quality anatomical wax models was a welcome addition in the teaching aids of the School of Anatomy and Surgery. Wax models have been fabricated for over 4000 years, but there are no references to their use in medical instruction until the 14th century when Alessandra Giliani of Persiceto [d.1326] pioneered the wax injection technique. During the 15th century, artists were performing vastly more dissections and were far more familiar with the structure of the body than were the anatomists, whose chief concern was with the viscera, blood vessels and nerves. It is thus not surprising to find that almost all of the wax teaching models of the period were produced by artists and were used for teaching anatomy in art schools. Interest in anatomical wax models within the medical profession came into full bloom before the end of the 17th century and well into the 18th century, the collections of wax preparations often serving as travelling exhibits. In the late 18th century, dissectible wax models started to be produced in Europe by Felice Fontana of Tuscany [1730-1805]. Fontana's anatomical models were used in lieu of cadavers for teaching purposes. In the first part of the 19th century, formal medical education had become increasingly important, but the supply of anatomical material for dissection had become more difficult. Wax models, as well as those made of terra cotta, papier-mâché and wood, were in great demand for anatomical teaching and instruction in dermatology and midwifery. By the mid-19th century several commercial firms, among them Tramond and Auzoux, started producing detailed and accurate models of human and comparative anatomy. 

The surviving wax models held in the Anatomy Department's Museum and the Medical School collection can be broadly placed into three groups on the basis of the commercial firm that produced them. It appears that the wax models in the holdings of the Anatomy Department and the Medical School actually belong to the early 19th to early 20th century and do not form part of the group donated by Mayer in the 18th century.

The first group is a series of eight models depicting anatomical dissections made by Vasseur of Paris. This group of models must date to the first half of the nineteenth century since Vasseur was a pupil of Jean Baptiste Laumonier [1747-1818] who had become Dean of the School of Medical Wax Sculpture founded in Rouen in 1806 and had a short reign of popularity closing its doors in 1815.

The second group were produced by Maison Tramond - N. Rouppert of Paris and includes a series of six models depicting the dermatological lesions of smallpox signed by Ch. Tumilin and one depicting the dissection of a new-born infant. Maison Tramond was established by the mid-19th century and was sited originally at 9 Rue de l' Ecole de Medicine in Paris adjacent to the old anatomical amphitheatre. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Maison Tramond was eventually taken over by N. Rouppert, the son-in-law of Tramond, to become known as "Maison Tramond - N. Rouppert successeur". The establishment was in 1926 taken over by the establishment set up by Louis Auzoux [1797-1880]. The latter establishment still exists today. The wax models held by the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery must therefore date to the first decades of the twentieth century.

  The third group includes a series of three models depicting the cerebral anatomy of the child marketed by Jos. Towne sculp. of London. Joseph Towne [1808-1879] worked as a modeller at Guy's Medical School in London obtaining his tenure in about 1825 and retained it until his death. During the period, Towne prepared over 100 anatomical and nearly 1000 dermatology models. The Maltese models thus probably date to the second half of the nineteenth century.
Papier-mâché scultpures
Other anatomical aids purchased by the University in the 19th - early 20th century include a series of papier-mâché models. The Anatomy Department Museum still holds a number of these specimens that appear to be of French make since all the original labelling is in that language.


The oldest models are a series of four enlarged anatomical dissections in papier-mâché of several organs signed by "Auzoux doct." and dated to 1855-59. These were likely purchased around 1860. In addition there is a series of papier-mâché models depicting the development of the fetus in utero, together with early pregnancy pathology including ovarian and tubal ectopic pregnancies. This series also includes a number of other anatomical dissections including a dissectible female whole-body manikin. This group are unlabeled as to maker but most likely were produced by the Auzoux Establishment.

Dr. Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux [1797-1880] prepared his first anatomical model depicting the lower extremity in papier-mâché as a medical student in 1822. He followed this up in 1825 with a complete human manikin composed of 665 pieces representing 356 details, which model he presented to the Academie de Medecine. In the same year, he established a small model factory at Rue Paon in Paris with the scope of preparing anatomical models on a commercial basis calling these models Anatomie clastique (from Greek Klastos: broken in pieces). In 1830, he produced a complete life-size human dissectible model, 1.95 metres in height, made up of 129 pieces showing 1115 anatomical details. At a cost of 3000 francs, this model was exorbitant and Auzoux went on to produce smaller versions including one at 1 metre [cost 1000 francs; marketed 1839], one at 82 cm [cost 500 francs]; and an even smaller one at 55 cm [250 francs]. In addition to the human manikins, Auzoux prepared a number of anatomical models of various organs, often magnified, including a model of the human eye [1826] and ear [1835]. He produced also a series of models showing the embryological development of the fetus. The establishment continued to produce the anatomical models after Auzoux's death and in 1926 assimilated the Tramond - N. Rouppert establishment.

A series of five models depicts different abnormal pelvises, one of which is attributed to Tramond - N. Rouppert of Paris  . The development of the Tramond - N. Rouppert establishment has already been outlined and is shown to have been in existence in the early decades of the twentieth century. These were probably purchased as a group together with the wax model depicting the dissected new-born and those depicting the lesions of smallpox.

Excluding the four Auzoux dated models, the various models cannot be accurately dated as to year of providence except by reviewing the history of the various establishments. The published annual Government Estimates of Expenditure also mention occasions where monies were voted for the specific purpose of purchasing anatomical teaching models [see Table below].
Government Estimates 
University and Lyceum:
For the cost of anatomical models………..£ 200.00,0
These possibly refer to the wax models made by Vasseur; the papier-mâché models of Auzoux; Towne's models of cerebrum. It was reported in 1860 that "A complete artificial, plastic collection of the whole human Anatomy, and of various other Anatomical preparations in wax, is preserved in the Museum of the University for the use of the students……. The Museum of the University contains a series of models of the Development of the human Ovum, in papier-mâché, magnified in size from the first day to the end of the first month, from which period to the end of gestation, the Fetus, the Uterus, and their appendages are represented in their natural magnitude. There is likewise a collection of abnormal forms of the Basin" .
Central Hospital:
Artificial body for use of the female students of midwifery……£ 10.00,0  
Now not extant
Early 20th c.

Tramond - N. Rouppert anatomy and dermatological models.

The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery also has in its holding a series of models depicting pests of public health importance. These were produced by Les Fils d'Emile Deyrolle of 46 rue du Bac in Paris. Emile Deyrolle was a French naturalist who sold, through his company set up in 1831, collections of specimens for the amateur naturalist and teaching models for primary and secondary education. The house still stands today.

In addition to the commercially produced anatomical models, the Anatomy Department has in its holdings a series of educational models prepared by individuals during their undergraduate years. These need to be catalogued and reviewed since they form part of Maltese medical heritage. The commercial anatomical wax and papier-mâché sculptures remain examples of the pre-modernist movement in the arts. These forgotten items of anatomical art are in dire need of restoration and await the generous offices of an art-loving sponsor to help restore these examples of 19th century art forms produced in the non-traditional media of wax and papier-mâché.