Bronze, waxwork and glass sculpture by Eleanor Crook entitled 'Santa Medicina'. Commissioned by the Science Museum for the 'Faith, Hope and Fear' gallery in Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries. The bronze female figure holds a scalpel and scissors. Her hair is looped onto her head, crowned with a surgeon's mirror. Open down the back to reveal écorché muscles, her dress appears like an operating gown, the skirts encrusted with amulets. The skirts shelter a fragile waxwork figure in a glass case resembling a reliquary, encased in glass, under a blanket covered with symbolic pins, and surrounded by flickering candles.
This figure is part surgeon part saint, combining objects and imagery from different faiths and medical practices. The stethoscope becomes a string of prayer beads, the head mirror a halo. The hands are cast from those of eminent cardiac surgeon Francis Wells. They hold a scalpel and scissors, both the tools of surgery, and classical symbols for controlling the thread of life.
The amulets that cover Santa Medicina's skirts are drawn from objects in the galleries, international medical collections and the life of the sculpture. Members of staff at the museum, the foundry, the artist's friends and colleagues suggested symbols relevant to them. From a wax model of twins in the womb, chosen by Keeper of Medicine Natasha McEnroe to an orthodontic retainer brace, chosen by Curator of Art Collections, Katy Barrett, the sculpture makes the clinical personal.
Santa Medicina’s skirts reveal a vulnerable sheltered figure, both body and soul, nourished equally by medicine and faith. Crook helps us to reflect on the frailty of human life, her healer is an imagined patron saint of medicine, and hopes to offer a guide for thinking about what makes a ‘good death’.
- Object Number:
- visual works
- Santa Medicina, (2018) by Eleanor Crook. Originally commissioned for The Medicine Galleries, by the Science Museum Group
- Crook, Eleanor