Medici Venus (anatomical wax model), 18th century

Viennese Diseases


With water cures, smallpox vaccination and practical medical training, an attempt was made to combat diseases and epidemics. Joseph II purchased anatomical wax models from Italy, with the aid of which medical students would acquire anatomical knowledge. He also had an ‘Asylum for the Insane’ erected in the Vienna General Hospital. In this way the ‘useful’ subjects were separated from those ‘of no use’ and the latter subsequently stigmatized as a marginal group in society. It was only when the ideas of Sigmund Freud began to be accepted that the possibility arose of treating the ‘mentally sick’.

With cases of syphilis, prostitution also came to the attention of the Health and Morality Police. Although the monitoring and medical examination of prostitutes served to minimize cases of syphilis, it also led to the moral devaluation of those afflicted.

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