Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Grotesque Apothecaries and Satirical Doctors

Caption: Apothecary. Historical satirical artwork showing the remedies, plants and equipment used by an apothecary (pharmacist). Many of the items shown here are labelled in French, including the alembic on his head, and the decoction flask in his left hand. An enema syringe is in his right hand. The plants include rosemary, aloe and Solanum. This is one of a set of artworks by the French artist Nicolas de l'Armessin II, titled 'Costumes Grotesques', dating from around 1695. This copy is from 'Die Karikatur und Satire in der Medizin' (Caricature and Satire in Medicine, 1921) by the German art historian and physician Eugen Hollander (1867-1932).

Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Caricature: Valentine print, showing a grotesque apothecary with a pestle, verse below. Anon . Circa 1850

Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
 'The poor doctor and the rich patient. 'You are very ill!'

“No other professional group (lawyers, the clergy) was so vigorously and prolifically satirised in this age as medical men. The endeavour was indeed a national sport. Satirists especially chose self-professed rationalists as their targets, although virtually every attribute of doctors was lambasted: their pedantry, mercilessness, immodesty, public antics, bigotry, pretensions, panaceas.”

G.S. Rousseau,  Enlightenment borders: pre- and post-modern discourses : medical, scientific (Manchester University Press 1991), p. 136
Credit: Wellcome Library, London

A lecherous doctor taking the pulse of an old woman whilst fondling a young one. 
(Coloured etching by T. Rowlandson, 1810.)
Why not take a look at the story of  the rabbit-woman Mary Tofts and her examination by the medical men? See Imagining monsters: miscreations of the self in eighteenth-century England.  By Dennis Todd (University of Chicago Press, 1995)

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