Clockwork picture of an itinerant dentist performing an extraction in French rural scene, wood frame, metal workings, first half 19th century, once owned by Dr Paul F Gachet.
Set in the French countryside, the illustration shows a travelling tooth puller practising his trade. A drummer beats a drum to drown out the screams of the patient whose only available pain relief was probably alcohol or herbal medicines. The tooth puller and the drummer can be moved by a clockwork mechanism. Removing the tooth was one of the few treatments for toothache and tooth decay available at this time and was carried out by barber-surgeons and travelling practitioners – who often had little, if any medical knowledge. The operation was clearly something of a spectacle as a crowd has gathered around to watch.
Dr Paul Ferdinand Gachet (1828-1909), a doctor specialising in mental illnesses who has been immortalised in a famous painting by Vincent van Gogh, once owned this illustration. The original documentation on this object also suggests that it sustained minor damage during the bombing blitz on London in the Second World War.
- Science Museum, Making the Modern World Gallery
- Object Number:
- Gachet, Dr.
- Loan: Wellcome Trust
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