In from the biting wind along Euston Road, up steps, bags searched, and into a stylish café at the Wellcome Collection. Apart from the café (‘Please relate your wi-fi usage to your intake of food and drink’ – to paraphrase the notice), here’s a bookshop, library, and permanent and temporary exhibitions. The museum aims to explore ‘ideas about the connections between medicine, life and art… The Wellcome Trust is the world’s largest independent charitable foundation funding research into human and animal health’. Great cakes, too.

Downstairs there are two exhibitions. ‘Charmed Life’ features charms and amulets from the Wellcome Collection, beautifully arranged in flowing shapes by artist Felicity Powell, and juxtaposed with her own wax artworks. From tiny wooden shoes to a nail-studded sheep’s heart, a vertebra carved with a face, animal teeth, lockets, stones, they bear witness to the significance of the object in people’s lives.

And here’s an exhibition of Mexican Miracle Paintings. If you were, say, falling to your death from a roof, or about to be shot, you might pray to the Virgen de Zapopan to save you, or to San Francisco de Asis, for instance. Then, if you survived, you would probably want to commission a small painting or ex-voto to dedicate to the Virgen or San Francisco in thanks. So here are walls full of these miraculous paintings, mostly on tin roof tiles, showing the disaster and the deliverer, and the carefully and often beautifully inscribed story.

Upstairs: the Collection – well, some of it. There are a number of prosthetic limbs, from earlier centuries, some exquisitely engineered, with independently movable joints and fingers. Here’s Disraeli’s death mask, a shrunken head, a whole mummified body from Peru, buried with ritual amulets; shelves of lovely glass flasks for various body functions; a shocking Chinese torture chair made almost entirely of edge-mounted sword blades, and Darwin’s walking canes. And this metal rhombus thing? The caption states simply: ‘Guillotine blade, French, 1792-1796’.

And what looks like a spiky jubilee clip with a small cycle clip inside? It’s a Victorian anti-masturbation device. Your Wellcome.

http://www.wellcomecollection.org

http://www.michaelmunday.co.uk

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