Wax models in Armauer Hansen’s Commemorative Rooms

Wax models. Photo: Bergen City Museum. Objects belong to the Bergen Collections on the History of Medicine.

In a cabinet labelled ‘Gift from Professor Oscar Lassar, Berlin’ there are a number of wax models showing the typical symptoms and ravages of leprosy. There were originally at least 18 such models or ‘moulages’. They are not labelled with who made them or when they were made. Nor is there any information about the patients who sat for the models. 

Such wax models became common at the end of the 19th century and were often used in the education of medical personnel, not least in connection with skin diseases. The models provided a more realistic and detailed representation of skin changes than a photo or a drawing.

Wax models. Photo: Bergen City Museum. Objects belong to the Bergen Collections on the History of Medicine.
Wax models. Objects belong to the Bergen Collections on the History of Medicine.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.

For a long time, leprosy was considered a skin disease, and even after the discovery of the bacterium, leprosy doctors maintained contact with dermatologists. Both Danielssen and Hansen were part of a large network of doctors and scientists, including Lassar.

Oscar Lassar (1849–1907) was a dermatologist and created a very large collection of wax models at his private clinic in Berlin, where he later became a professor at the university. In addition to skin diseases, Danielssen was also interested in syphilis. Armauer Hansen and Lassar were both vice-presidents of the First International Conference on Leprosy in Berlin in 1897.

We can assume that the wax models in the cabinet were a gift from Lassar to his colleagues in Bergen. We know that he visited Bergen at least twice, first at the unveiling of Danielssen’s memorial plaque in 1895 and then as keynote speaker at the unveiling of Hansen’s bust in 1901.

From the unveiling of Hansen's bust. Photo: University of Bergen Library.
From the unveiling of the bust of Hansen in 1901, where Lassar was responsible for the unveiling.
Photo: The University of Bergen Library
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