The Tragic Fate of Moulage Collections Worldwide

Nearly half of the moulages created from the early 1800’s until the mid 1900’s have been lost at this time.  Paris, France has the largest and most important collections of these wax models in existence.  The Musée des Moulages on the grounds of Hôpital Saint-Louis is in dire need of a new roof to preserve the moulage collection.  This hospital and its museum are a site of origin for the creation of dermatology as a medical specialty. The methods of teaching dermatology used in the 1790’s at this hospital are still used today.  It is incumbent to preserve this important part of dermatologic history for future generations.


Boston: 1847 collection established by by Dr. George Hayward at the Warren Anatomical Museum. Dr. Edward Wigglesworth of Harvard brings Barretta moulages from Paris in 1870. These are given to the Warren Anatomical Museum in later 1800’s-early 1900’s and stored in the basement too near the boilers and the entire collection melted.

Chicago:  1938 due to rise of Nazism, Dr. Maurice Oppenheim was forced to leave Vienna.  He came to the United States, bringing many moulages with him from his department at the Wilhelminen Hospital. He settles in Chicago, and becomes chairman of dermatology at Chicago Medical School, and uses moulages for teaching.  The collection was displayed in 1969 at the AAD, and subsequently disappeared.

New Orleans  Medical College of Louisiana (later Tulane University) state funding was provided to acquire a moulage collection from London, Paris, and Florence.  The collection vanished in 1963.

Philadelphia: The Duhring collection, which was amassed over decades, still has some on display in the Department of Dermatology.  Others were kept in storage in a building which was sold by the University and the collection was auctioned off. Some were purchased by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (the Mütter Museum), others to the National Museum of Health & Medicine and Jefferson Medical College.

Washington, D.C. The National Museum of Health & Medicine has about 430 moulages, many from the Duhring collection. About 10 Duhring models are in the Smithosonian Institution Division of Medical Sciences.

European collEctions

Vienna, Austria:  Von Hebra, the first professor of dermatology at Vienna Medical School, helped develop the moulage collection of the Allegemiene Krankenhaus. One of the illustrators of the Hebra Atlas, Anton Elfinger was also a mouleur. Moritz Kaposi succeeded Hebra as chair (and also was Hebra’s son-in-law); Kaposi hired Karl Henning as the wax modeler, who’s son Theodor Henning continued the wax model tradition until 1939. Some of these models are still at the Allegemiene Krankenhaus, and others are at the Josephinium Museum. Over 4,000 models were in Vienna; only 2,358 still exist.

Berlin, Germany: 1889 the collection begins after the First International Congress of Dermatology in Paris. Two dermatologists Dr. Oskar Lassar and Dr. Edmund Lesser of the Charité Hospital developed separate collections.  The Lassar Collection was housed at Lassar’s private office and also the Berlin Hautklinik, after Lassar’s death, this collection traveled to its current home in Hamburg.  The Lesser Collection was at the Charité Hospital, and survived World War II, but in the 1960’s, the Wolfgang Gertler, the director of dermatology at the Charité Hospital selected 8 models to keep, and gave the rest of the collection to a candlemaker for wax.

Cologne, Germany: had 200 models, which were lost after WWII when the dermatology faculty moved to a new building.

Dresden, Germany: Dr. Galewsky established the collection in 1891 after learning about wax models from Dr. Albert Neisser.  His entire collection was lost in a 1945 bombing of Dresden in WWII. The German Hygiene Museum in Dresden had a collection of ~2,700 moulages, all except for 12 were lost in the Dresden bombing of 1945.  After WWII the Museum worked to re-build its collection, the current catalogue lists 550 moulages in the collection.

Frankfurt am Main, Germany: moulages were introduced by Dr. Karl Herxheimer in 1894. Three hundred still exist.

Freiburg, Germany: another student of Dr. Albert Neisser (of Neisseria gonorrhea fame)built a collection of >2,000 moulages, as of 1991, only 800 were in existence, stored in cabinets in the city hospital’s attic.

Moulages carefully stored by Dr. Essler in the basement of the Medizinhistorisches Museum, Hamburg.

Hamburg, Germany: the Berlin collection of Dr. Oskar Lassar arrived in 1907.  The dermatology department of the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf gave the moulages to the medical museum on the hospital campus, where some have been restored and are on display.

Henrik Essler, Ph.D. medical historian and archivist at Medizinhistorisches Museum Hamburg

Current conservation efforts on the part of Dr. Henrik Essler has aided in keeping the remainder in acid-free storage boxes in the museum’s basement with monitoring of temperature and humidity.

Hannover, Germany: the collection was established in 1928, but in 1947, was completely destroyed in a flood.  Later, a new modeler was hired and rebuilt the collection to 400 polyvinyl moulages, and is currently in the basement of the Linden Dermatological Clinic.

Jena, Germany: the collection was destroyed in 1958.

Leipzig, Germany: the collection was destroyed in the 1960’s.

Munich, Germany: the collection was built from 1837-1926 and contained 1,374 moulages.  It was put on tour for health education, and was destroyed in a fire in 1931.  It was partially rebuilt at the Ludwig-Haxmillian University Dermatology Clinic, which currently has 40 moulages.

Rostock, Germany: the Rostock Skin Hospital had a collection of >3,000 moulages. Most were destroyed in an air-raid in WWII in 1944.  50 were salvaged and restored at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden.

Athens, Greece: The Andreas Syrgos Museum opened in 1912 under the auspices of Dr. G. Thomas Photinos the first professor of dermatology at the University of Athens. Dr. Photinos traveled to Paris, but Barretta was very secretive about his techniques.  Dr. Oskar Lassar of Berlin aided in teaching Photinos moulaging techniques.  The museum has >1,500 models, and is maintained.

Budapest, Hungary: The medical university collection was started in 1911, but was destroyed in the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. The Semmelweis Medical History Museum still has some dermatological models which are maintained.

 Bologna, Italy:  This city has the earliest wax models (160 in total, 11 dermatologic) in the country, which are preserved at the Anatomy Institute at the University of Bologna.

The Netherlands has collections in Amsterdam, Leiden, Rotterdam, and Utrecht.  Most are still in existence. The Amersterdam collection consists of models made in Berlin by Heinrich Kasten, 150 are recorded in the archives, but only about 80 are known to exist.

Poland had collections in Krakow, Szczecin, and Wroclaw.  Nearly 1,000 have been lost, sold, or destroyed from these collections since the mid-1900’s. The collection In Wroclaw was initiated under. Dr. Albert Neisser (of Neisseria Gonorrhea fame) and later maintained by Dr. Josef Jadassohn.  Alfons Kroner, the mouleur won the grand prize for medical moulage at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

United Kingdom: collections were recorded in Edinburgh, Liverpool, and London.  The collections in Edinburgh and Liverpool were either lost or destroyed.  In London, The Gordon Museum has 560 wax models of over 1,000 made by Joseph Towne, one of the original mouleurs, who started creating works as early as 1827 at Guy’s Hospital in London.  Another collection was started by Erasmus Wilson in 1869 at the Royal College of Surgeons. These were purchased from Barretta and from Guy’s Hospital.  This collection was destroyed in the London Blitz of 1940.   In 1937, a collection as started at the Hospital at Leicester Square (now merged with the St. Thomas Hospital), made by Alice Gretener of Switzerland, who worked in the hospital attic.  She carefully recorded her techniques and the collection has been maintained.


China and Japan: Some of the collections in Beijing and Shanghai China  were purchased from Wroclaw, Poland. Japan had collections in Fukuoka, Hirosaki, Kyoto, Nagasaki, and Tokyo.  Unfortunately, the Hirosaki collection was melted for candle wax during WWII. Dr. Keizo Dohi of the University of Tokyo studied in Vienna and learned the technique of moulage making from Kaposi’s modeler, Henning. Dr. Dohi later employed several modelers in the department of dermatology and over 2,000 models were created.

1. Parish EC, Worden G, Witkowski JA, Scholz A, Parish DH.  Wax models in dermatology.  Trasactions & Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.  Series 5; 13(1). 1991: 29-74.