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Aesculapius and other ancients are presented with exotic materia medica from the far east, which are turned into medicines in a pharmaceutical elaboratory. Oil painting by Johannes Prey, 1791.

  • Prey, Johannes Zacharias Simon, 1749-1822.
Date
17 7/16 91 [i.e. 16 July 1791]
Reference
466059i
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Credit: Aesculapius and other ancients are presented with exotic materia medica from the far east, which are turned into medicines in a pharmaceutical elaboratory. Oil painting by Johannes Prey, 1791. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

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About this work

Description

From left to right, Apollo holding a bow, Aesculapius holding his rod in one hand and a poppy in the other, and Hippocrates, who holds a skull and a syringe, and has a garment inscribed with the Greek proverb gnōthi seauton (equivalent to Latin nosce teipsum, English "know thyself"). In the foreground, putti bring to the ancients a box of exotic materia medica of the kind brought back from Asia to Europe by the VOC (Dutch East-India Company). On the right, the materia medica is turned into medicines in a chemical-pharmaceutical laboratory

One of the items on the steps in the foreground is a book containing two prints which have been identified by Dr Monique Kornell as colour mezzotints by Jan L'Admiral which were published in books by well-known Dutch authors in the 1730s (i.e. sixty years previously). One of them, an illustration of black and white skin, is the plate to Bernhard Siegfried Albinus's De sede et causa coloris aethiopum et caeterorum hominum (Leiden 1737) (the sole plate to the book): this illustration of black and white skin is an attempt to account for the differences in the physical characteristics of racial types. The other, showing the hip bone and top of the femur, was published in Frederik Ruysch's Icon membranae vasculosae (Leiden 1738). Both are by Jan L'Admiral, the inventor of intaglio printing in colour. They might be included here as a remarkably well-informed tribute to medical illustration as a technique contributing to medical knowledge, on a par with the techniques such as zoology and botany which underlay medicine and pharmaceutics

Publication/Creation

[Rotterdam?], 17 7/16 91 [i.e. 16 July 1791]

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 118 x 88 cm

Lettering

Is. Prey. inv. 17 7/16 91

Creator/production credits

The mortar on which the painter's name is inscribed is being used by a man who looks out of the picture at the viewer: he may be a self portrait of the painter

References note

Elisabeth B.M. Lottman, 'De bijdrage van de Rotterdamse en Schiedamse "tekenscholen" aan het bouuwkundig onderwijs circa 1750-1850', Rotterdams Jaarboekje, 1983, ser. 9, vol. 1, pp. 243-271 (on a painting by the same artist in Rotterdam)

Lettering note

Bears lettering on the mortar in the centre

Reference

Wellcome Library no. 466059i


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    Note

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