hidden europe 36

Zurich’s Moulage Museum

by Duncan JD Smith


Duncan JD Smith, urban explorer extraordinaire, introduces us to the world of medical moulage, a technique that was used to reproduce the physical manifestations of various diseases and dermatological conditions. Welcome to Zurich’s Moulage Museum.

We have from time to time in hidden europe featured the writing of Duncan JD Smith, urban explorer extraordinaire, whose work nicely unpicks the textured detail of communities across Europe. Duncan’s book ‘Only in Zurich’ is published next month, the first Swiss title in a series that already encompasses Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Cologne, Munich and Hamburg (for more details see www.onlyinguides.com). All the books are authored by Duncan and published by Christian Brandstätter Verlag. We have had a sneek preview of the upcoming Zurich book. It uncovers another Zurich from that described in regular guidebooks, revealing the pleasures of dining in a former factory, touring the city’s waste water treatment plant, attending a Hare Krishna temple ceremony, or playing pinball in an underground garage. With the kind permission of Duncan and his publisher, we present here a slightly adapted extract from ‘Only in Zurich’. A German language edition of the book, entitled ‘Nur in Zürich’, is also released this spring by the same publisher.

Until the 1950s, when high-quality colour photography became affordable, anatomy students were sometimes taught using accurate, life-sized wax models. Known as medical moulage, from the French word for ‘casting’ or ‘moulding’, such models were undoubtedly more appealing to handle than real bodies. The last professional moulageuse, Elsbeth Stoiber, retired in 1963 from the University of Zurich, leaving behind some 1,800 examples of her art. Since 2005 these have been on permanent display in what is undoubtedly Zurich’s most curious museum: the Moulage Museum (Moulagenmuseum) at Haldenbachstrasse 14 in Zurich’s Oberstrass district.

The technique of medical moulage was pioneered in Renaissance Italy during the late seventeenth century by Gaetano Giulio Zummo (1656–1701).