Comparative Guts

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John Banister Delivering an Anatomical Lecture on the Viscera

1581, painting, 33.8 x 43.2 cm. University of Glasgow Library, Glasgow, GB 247 MS Hunter 364 (V.1.1), frontispiece
University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections, MS Hunter 364.

The English surgeon and physician John Banister (1532/3–1599?) lectures on the viscera, placing his hand on the open abdomen of a cadaver while indicating the related area on an articulated skeleton. Labels have been added to the body, identifying the liver, stomach, and intestines. Behind Banister is a depicted copy of Realdo Colombo’s De re anatomica, first published in 1559, open to the chapter on the intestines – the part of the cadaver on which Banister’s ringed hand rests. Banister and his assistants wear white oversleeves to protect their clothing. Scattered on the tablecloth on which the cadaver rests are surgical instruments used in the dissection, with more held or passed between the assistants. The coats of arms are those of the Banister family and of the Company of Barbers Surgeons, in the hall of which the lecture took place in 1581 when Banister was 48.

Monique Kornell