The art of breast surgery

“Surgeons see people at their worse and their best…”

William Halsted

In 1889 the renown surgeon, teacher and mastectomist, David Hayes Agnew retired from the University of Pennsylvania. To mark the occasion realistic artist Thomas Eakins was commissioned to produce this work. It is remarkable for several reasons. All depicted are actual people who worked and studied with Agnew. All are male except for scrub nurse and patient. Agnew stands in a shaft of light depicted as a religious icon. There is anaesthesia but not antisepsis. The painting itself was banned from the 1891 Pennsylvania Academy of Art exhibition due to the nudity. Finally, the great surgeon is pontificating whilst his juniors do the actual work. #scalpelinhand #letsmakelemonade

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