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A "theatre" of medicine and surgery. Watercolour by Johann Heinrich Ramberg, ca. 1800.

  • Ramberg, Johann Heinrich, 1763-1840.
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Credit: A "theatre" of medicine and surgery. Watercolour by Johann Heinrich Ramberg, ca. 1800. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

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About this work


An horrific omnium gatherum of the "heroic" medical and surgical treatments typical of establishment medicine around the time of the French Revolution. Two amputations are taking place. A friar holds a crucifix before the patient on the right. Near the middle, a woman with one exposed breast has a pair of amulets dangled before her eyes by a theurgist friar: perhaps she is portrayed as the next candidate for surgery (mastectomy). The setting is a hospital of the grandest kind: Christine Stevenson's 'Medicine and magnificence : British hospital and asylum architecture, 1660-1815', New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, discusses the rationales in Britain of such palatial buildings



Physical description

1 drawing : pen and grey ink and watercolour over pencil ; sheet 29.5 by 43.2 cm

Creator/production credits

The artist Ramberg was born in Hanover, the son of the war secretary of the Electorate of Hanover who encouraged his son in his vocation as an artist. In 1781 he sent him to England where he was introduced to King George III for whom he made a number of humorous sketches and caricatures. He was admitted to the R.A. schools by Benjamin West and he won a silver medal for life drawing in 1784. He exhibited twelve pictures at the Royal Academy (then at Somerset House) between 1782 and 1788, including his best known work 'Portraits of their Majesties and the Royal Family viewing the Exhibition of the Royal Academy' (now in the British Museum) In 1788, he visited the Netherlands and then Italy, returning to Hanover in 1792 where he was appointed court painter and spent the rest of his life

Lettering note

Medicine vessels lower right labelled "unguent balsa" and "ung. me"


Wellcome Library no. 537679i


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