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17th century, 18th century, Medici, autopsy, embalming, court surgeons
During the Modern Age, dissection began to be practiced for medico-legal purposes, in order to investigate the causes of death. In particular, starting from the 15th century evidences of autopsies performed by doctors on their private patients emerge. These dissections were requested by those families who can afford the expenses, in order to search the possible presence of hereditary diseases and to predispose a prevention and cure. The extremely rich documentary archives of the Medici family, one of the most important family of the Italian Renaissance, report several description of necropsies carried out on the bodies of the members of the family. The analysis of these reports offers important direct information on the autopsy practices performed by court surgeons of the members of an aristocratic class in a period comprised between the 16th and the first half of the 18th century, and allows in some cases also to propose a retrospective diagnosis on the diseases that afflicted the Medici. Following a previous work that discussed the evidences dated back to the 16th century, this paper will be focused on the reports about autopsies carried out during the 17th and the first half of the 18th century. During this period, the reports became more accurate and detailed, reaching at the end of the period the characteristic of modern scientific autopsy notes. Therefore, in the majority of cases the lesions referred by the court physician provide sufficient element to propose a retrospective diagnosis based on the symptoms referred by the historical sources during the life of the patients and on the cadaveric examination.