• FA-123746 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
Everyday Life - directions for use
1910 - 1919

Bust with prosthetic arm, 1914-1917


Mechanical artificial limbs as a consequence of mechanised warfare: between 1914 and 1918 prostheses were also shown at exhibitions. Their manufacture required co-operation between qualified experts.

The Technisches Museum Wien has around 70 prostheses dating from the time of the First World War. They are made mostly of metal, ceramic, textiles, leather and plastic. They include artificial limbs for the upper and lower leg as well as arms and hands, plus supports for hips, knees and ankles. A pair of trousers and a jacket feature fastening devices for arm amputees, and an arm stump is fitted with a facecloth. Several of these prostheses also have brackets for everyday utensils such as cutlery and pencils. Some of the prostheses are from a reservist infirmary at Gassergasse 44 (Vienna’s 5th District); others are from a war invalid training and research institute at Mollardgasse 87 (Vienna 6th District).

The First World War not only claimed the lives of millions, but countless soldiers also returned from battle with severe physical, psychological and emotional scars. Somehow they had to be reintegrated into everyday life, which is why specialists began working on designing suitable prostheses. Prosthetic legs were a focal point of the research as the body’s entire weight had to rest on them. It meant that, while field surgeons were performing leg amputations, they had to try and produce a residual limb capable at a later stage of bearing the patient’s body weight and accommodating a prosthesis. The artificial limbs created for the upper extremities included practical ‘work hands’ and ‘Sunday hands’ with a more aesthetic and cosmetic function. Indeed, beyond the purely physical damage itself, the loss of limbs also caused severe psychological stress and made it all the more difficult for those affected to find partners and start a family.

Manufacturing period: 1914-1917

Inv.Nr. 33923
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