Abstract

This article provides a transcription and translation of four notarized declarations describing the events surrounding a postmortem caesarean section performed in 1545 in Vercelli, a small city in the Duchy of Savoy. After her death in the late stages of pregnancy, Isabella della Volpe's body was opened and her fetus excised by a local barber, aided by a surgeon and a midwife. The article argues that the postmortem caesarean section was a well-known and widely accepted procedure and that it might be motivated by financial and legal as well as religious concerns; not only was it important to baptize the child for its salvation, but the fate of the mother's dowry, as in this case, might depend on whether she died with or without living issue.

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