Mesmeric therapy. Oil painting by a French (?) painter, 1778/1784.

[between 1778 and 1784?]
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About this work


Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) introduced a system of therapy ("animal magnetism" or "mesmerism") based on the theory that the body was analogous to a magnet. At first in Vienna (1768-1778) and later in Paris (1778-1784) he turned the theory into practice by constructing a large tub (a "baquet") from which magnetised fluids were dispensed to patients through pipes and ropes applied to diseased parts of the body. In the present painting, the man on the extreme left winds a magnetised rope around his head to cure headache. In the right background, Mesmer touches a friar with a magnetic wand. In the right foreground the woman playing a piano might be the blind musician Maria Theresia von Paradies (Paradis) (1759-1824)


[between 1778 and 1784?]

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 60.5 x 76.2 cm

References note

XVIIth International Congress of Medicine: handbook of the Historical Medical Museum organized by Henry S. Wellcome (the Museum of the Section of the History of Medicine), London, 1913, catalogue no. 140, p. 77
Roy Porter, 'Under the influence: mesmerism in England', History today, September 1985, vol. 35: 22-29 (reproduced p. 22)
Robert E. Greenspan, Medicine: perspectives in history and art, Alexandria, Va.: Ponteverde Press, 2006, p. 522 (reproduced)

Exhibitions note

Exhibited in "Hypnose" at Musee d'arts de Nantes 16th October 2020 - 12th September 2021


Wellcome Collection 44754i

Creator/production credits

Possibly by or after Claude-Louis Desrais (1746-1816), though he does not seem to have usually painted in oils: see:

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