Royal College of Physicians
London NW1 4LE
The collections of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) relate to the history and culture of medicine from the organisation's foundation in 1518 to the present day. They include astonishiong artworks by Roubillac, Thomas Lawrence and Zoffany among others; portraits, silverware, medals, medical artefacts and instruments. Displayed throughout the RCP's spectacular Grade 1 listed modernist building by master architect Sir Denys Lasdun.
Also on show is an extremely rare set of six anatomical tables, displaying human veins, nerves and arteries dissected at Padua’s famous anatomy theatre in the 17th century, skilfully arranged on varnished wooden panels. For the first time in their history, the tables are on permanent public display.
‘There is a definite gruesome parallel with the formaldehyde-preserved sharks of Damien Hirst.’ Francis Wells, consultant surgeon at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge
The portrait collection forms a record of the most eminent figures in the history of medicine. The collection holds 350 oil portraits and 4000 prints, including outstanding pieces such as the busts of Baldwin Hamey Junior (1600-1676) by Edward Pierce and Richard Mead (1673-1754) by Louis François Roubiliac. Major painters represented include Godfrey Kneller, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Hudson, Johann Zoffany and Thomas Lawrence.
The Symons collection of medical instruments began as a group of objects relating to self-care in Georgian times and expanded to include items that would have been used by physicians when treating patients in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The silver collection reflects events in the medical college’s history as well as the lives and generosity of its fellows and members. Many pieces of silver are ‘working’ objects and are used to this day for formal occasions in the College. Special objects include the President’s staff of office, the silver caduceus and the silver-gilt College mace.
The Victor Hoffbrand collection is the largest collection of apothecary jars in private ownership in the country. The jars give a fascinating insight into the ingredients of medicines prepared and sold over 300 years ago.
The RCP has had a medicinal garden since 1965. It was extensively replanted by Mark Griffiths in 2005–6, with sponsorship from a generous grant from the Wolfson Foundation. Head gardener, Jane Knowles, has vastly expanded the number of plants and the garden now contains over 1300 varieties.
The RCP building is itself notable. It was built by Denys Lasdun in 1964 and has since been recognised as a building of national importance through its Grade I listing.
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