Publisher Information: London: James Wales, 1795.
Wales, James (1746/47 – 1795). A singular operation. Mezzotint engraving by W. Nutter after Wales. London: James Wales . . . at Mr. R. Cribbs, Carver & Gilder, 1795. 378 x 261 mm. Traces of mount removal on verso, a few tiny spots, but fine otherwise.
Striking and rare post-operation portrait of Cowasjee, the Hindu bullock driver whose rhinoplasty was reported in the famous “B. L.” letter published in 1794 in the Gentleman’s Magazine (see Garrison-Morton.com 5735.1). Extremely Rare on the Market; this is the first copy we have handled in our five decades in the trade.
Cowasjee, who worked for the British Army, had his nose and one of his hands cut off while a prisoner of Tipu Sultan during the third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-92). In 1794 his nose was successfully reconstructed by an Indian surgeon using the traditional Indian or Hindu method, in which the surgeon builds a new nose from a live graft of skin cut from the patient’s forehead but left attached at one end. Two British surgeons observed Cowasjee’s operation and publicized the event in the local press. News of the operation first came to England via the “B. L.” letter to the Gentleman’s Magazine, whose author has been identified as British engraver Barak Longmate (1768-1836). The letter helped to revive European interest in reconstructive surgery.
Cowajee’s post-surgical portrait was painted by James Wales, a Scots artist who moved to India in the early 1790s. The engraved version by W. Nutter, published after the “B. L.” letter, adds illustrations of the stages of the operation, together with a long description. An earlier engraving of the Wales portrait, by R. Mabon, was published in Bombay in 1794. Both the Nutter and Mabon versions are exceptionally rare.Book Id: 45226