Mein neues Lieblingsblog: The chirurgeons Apprentice – A website dedicated to the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery. Es geht, wie der Name bereits suggeriert, um historische Medizin und Operationsmethoden und das liest sich immer ziemlich lecker, fast schon prosaisch. Ein Beispiel aus einem Posting über den 1751er Murder Act, laut dem hingerichtete Mörder sofort nach der Exekution von Chirurgen im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes auseinander genommen werden sollen. Dazu hat sich der zeitgenössiche Künstler William Hogarth damals die fiktive Geschichte eines „Tom Nero“ einfallen lassen, der zunächst drei „Stages of Cruelty“ erreicht und dafür schließlich seine „Belohnung“ erhält.
In The Four Stages of Cruelty–a series of printed engravings published in 1751–the English artist, William Hogarth, depicts the different stages of life which ultimately bring the fictional ‘Tom Nero’ to the anatomist’s dissecting table.
In The First Stage of Cruelty, we see Nero (whose namesake may have been inspired by the Roman Emperor, or a contraction of the name, ‘no hero’) torturing a dog by plunging an arrow into its rectum while two other boys restrain the helpless creature. All around them, other boys partake in senseless acts of cruelty against animals.
In The Second Stage of Cruelty, we see an older Nero outside Thavies Inn Gate. Nero is a hackney coachman whose horse has collapsed and broken its leg under the weight of its cargo: four frugal lawyers whom are too cheap to hire two carts. The carriage pitches sideways, spilling its passengers from its confines, as Nero whips the horse with such anger that he takes out the poor beast’s eye.
In Cruelty in Perfection, Nero’s evilness is unleashed upon his pregnant lover, Ann Gill. Here, we see her mutilated body lying prostate before shocked witnesses. The brutality of the crime is evident: her neck, wrist and index finger have nearly been severed from her body. The finger points to the words, ‘God’s Revenge against Murder’, which are written on a book by her side, indicating Nero’s fate.
The final engraving, The Reward of Cruelty (pictured above), is also the most unforgettable. Having been tried and convicted of Ann’s murder, Nero’s body is delivered to the Company of Surgeons for dissection. In a poetic twist of fate, the anatomists carve open Nero’s corpse, spilling his intestines on the floor where a dog picks at the remains. Nero’s eye has been removed from its socket, evoking images of the old horse in the second engraving. And lastly, just as Ann’s finger pointed to Nero’s fate in the third panel, so Nero’s partially severed finger points to the fate of all murderers: a pot of bones, its flesh boiled off, ready for anatomical display. So perish all murderers.