In Cheselden’s time, surgeons trained through an apprenticeship during which, they would attend private anatomy lessons. Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of bodies for anatomical purposes where those of criminals condemned by the courts. The Barber-Surgeons’ Company kept scrupulous control over the use of bodies dissected in their hall, with the macabre ritual of often later displaying the dissected bodies of executed criminals in niches around the walls. Cheselden himself was fined by the Company in 1714 for carrying out dissections without permission, which drew away audience members from regular lectures at the Company. With students having little opportunity to take part in dissections themselves, teachers would rely on models or anatomical preparations for class...Image and text from The Wellcome Collection blog; you can learn more about this fabulous painting--and read the text in its entirety--by clicking here.
Full image credit: William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration to six spectators in the anatomy-theatre of the Barber-Surgeons' Company, London. Oil painting, ca. 1730/1740. Wellcome Images.