The first permanent anatomy theatre of England was not commissioned until 1636; in the meantime, anatomical demonstrations took place in more intimate circumstances. Here, the instructor is the surgeon and anatomist John Banister, giving a lecture at the Barber-Surgeon’s Hall in London in 1581. In England in this period, there was a sharp (if gradually loosening) distinction between university-educated, elite physicians, and barber-surgeons, who learned their craft through practical training, and who performed what was perceived as the lowly, manual work of amputation and dissection. Banister was one of the few figures who crossed this divide: he became a member of the Barber-Surgeons’ Company in 1572, and in 1593 was licensed to practice medicine by the College of Physicians of London, on the recommendation of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also a writer of medical and anatomical works, and commissioned the book of anatomical tables for which this painting is the frontispiece.
Click on the book and the skeleton to find out more.