Title page from 1543 edition of the Fabrica


This complicated scene in an imaginary courtyard or dissection theater shows Vesalius lecturing as he dissects a female cadaver. He appears to be explaining reproductive anatomy, a favorite and little-understood subject. The scene is full of portraits, though the particulars can no longer be known with certainty. Architectural details highlight one of anatomy's favorite metaphors, the comparison of the human fabric to that of a building. The coat of arms supported overhead by two cherubs displays three weasels, the emblem of the anatomist's ancestral home (Wesel in Cleves). Animals in the foreground symbolize the role of comparative anatomy. The scene was re-cut for the 1555 edition, with many changes in detail (such as the addition of a ram beside the dog in the right foreground). The pickpocket caught in the act remains in both versions, perhaps a reminder that such petty criminals might end up on the anatomist's table after being hanged.

Students and Faculty can peruse the images from the text via ARTstor: http://www.artstor.org/what-is-artstor/w-html/col-vesalius-nw.shtml