Friday, December 18, 2009

Wound man

The illustration at the top, from Hans von Gersdorff's Feldtbuch der Wundartzney (Strasburg, 1519), is commonly known as "Wound Man." It was one of many similar images used as schematics in European medieval and Renaissance surgical texts. The various injuries that a person might suffer in a battle or accident were keyed to text that described the appropriate treatment.

What I didn't remember until I looked this up (after seeing it in a book I was reading) is that it figures in the plot of Thomas Harris's 1981 novel Red Dragon. In the book, serial killer Hannibal Lecter arranges his 6th victim like the wound man, which helps the detective capture him:
"I think it was about a week later in the hospital I finally figured it out. It was Wound Man--an illustration they used in a lot of the early medical books like the ones Lecter had. It shows different types of battle injuries, all in one figure. I had seen it in a survey course a pathologist was teaching at GWU. This sixth victim's position and his injuries were a close match to Wound Man."
"Wound Man, you say? That's all you had?"
"Well, yeah. It was a coincidence that I had seen it. A piece of luck."
Harris's novel was adapted for film in the well-reviewed but not-very-successful 1986 movie Manhunter, with William Petersen as the detective and Brian Cox as Lecter. After the success of the 1991 sequel The Silence of the Lambs, with Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, Manhunter was remade as Red Dragon (2002). In that film, homicidal character Francis Dolarhyde (played by Ralph Fiennes) - who worships Lector - is obsessed by William Blake's early 19th c. watercolor "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun" (2nd image). In a most memorable scene, Dolarhyde - who has the painting tattooed on his back - gains access to the original at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and eats it!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, that's so odd! I just read that passage about 20 minutes ago, and thought to myself, "I should google 'Wound Man'..."


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