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.
- 17 7/16 91 [i.e. 16 July 1791]
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About this work
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
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