Cosmas and Damian, The Miracle of the Black Leg, and Transplant Histories

Season 1, Episode 5,   Apr 19, 2022, 09:00 AM

Emma and Christy explore the story of surgeon-saints Cosmas and Damian through paintings of the ‘miracle of the black leg’ from c. 1370-1495 in Italy and Spain. These pictures bring up complicated ideas around visibility and race, surgery, and historiography. In this episode, we talk Blackness in early modern Europe, organ donation and race, the long history of systemic racism in the medical system, surgeon-historians, and looking at the past from a modern perspective.

, as well as complete show notes, references, and suggestions for further reading.

Master of Los Balbases, A verger’s dream: Saints Cosmas and Damian performing a miraculous cure by transplantation of a leg (c. 1495)
Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors (1533)
Joan Miró, A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem) (1938)
Fra Angelico, The Healing of Justinian by Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian (c. 1438-1440)
Matteo di Pacino, St. Cosmas and St. Damian (c. 1370-1375)
Kara Walker, Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart (1994)
Example of a 19th-century silhouette portrait: Mamma (c. 1834)
Sano di Pietro, Madonna col Bambino Angeli e Santi, Predella con Storie dei Santi Cosma e Damiano (1444)
School of Castile and Leon, Saints Cosmas and Damian Healing a Christian with a Leg of a Dead Moor (c. 1460-1480)
Image of a dark-skinned man with a white nose: From the ‘Dissertation of Noses’ in A Solution to the Question (1733)

‘Drawing Blood’ was made possible with funding from the Experimental Humanities Collaborative Network.
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Audio postproduction by Sias Merkling
‘Drawing Blood’ cover art © Emma Merkling
All audio and content © Emma Merkling and Christy Slobogin
Intro music: ‘There Will Be Blood’ by Kim Petras, © BunHead Records 2019. We’re still trying to get hold of permissions for this song – Kim Petras text us back!!