Social satire, Medicine in art
In Macassar Oil, an apothecary vendor pours oil on a bald man’s head, while a woman behind them looks shocked at the reflection of her hair standing on end. A sign on the rear wall advertises a miracle product: “Macassar Oil, for the Growth of Hair, is the finest invention ever known for encreasing hair on bald Places, Its virtues are pre-eminent for improving and beautifying the Hair of Ladies and Gentlemen.” Dozens of elixirs and other remedies line the shelves, and the large oil jar suggests products of exotic provenance. A tall fools’ cap with ass’s ears indicates the artist’s opinion of “soft heads” naïve enough to spend money in this shop.
Thomas Rowlandson (1757 – 1827)
Thomas Tegg, London
Debra Cashion, in collaboration with Elisabeth Barrett, '15
Hand colored etching; original dimensions, 350 x 248 mm
Thomas Rowlandson (1757 – 1827), “Macassar Oil,” The Anatomist: Early Modern Medical Satire, accessed November 23, 2017, http://anatomist.omeka.net/items/show/4.