The 'Miraculous Chair of Palermo', parturition chair, early 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This folding parturition (birthing) chair, made of wood and leather, was reputedly designed in Sicily, Italy. It includes a painted religious icon positioned above the point where the woman's head would rest. Designed for use by women giving birth, the parturition chair dates from antiquity, and the custom still survives in some countries today. It is estimated that this parturition chair has been used in up to 2000 deliveries, whilst in the posesion of a family of three generations of midwives.