Rowlandson et al.

Dublin Core


Rowlandson et al.


Medical Satire


Prints and illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and others, that ridicule English society including members of the medical profession.


Thomas Rowlandson and others


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February 2015


Debra Cashion, PhD, MLIS; in collaboration with Elisabeth Barrett, SLU '15


Works in the public domain


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Digital images




Still image



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Collection Items

Death in the Dissecting Room
Rowlandson’s depiction of a working anatomy laboratory reflects the popular view of physicians as ghoulish and disrespectful of death. The doctor and his busy staff are conducting at least two dissections, one in the foreground and one in the…

Macassar Oil
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,…

Bath Races
During the 18th century the city of Bath became a fashionable tourist attraction by reputation of its spas. Fed by geothermal mineral springs, the hot sulfuric water at Bath was alleged to heal a variety of illnesses and infirmities. “Taking the…

The Reward of Cruelty
In the engraving entitled The Reward of Cruelty, the English artist William Hogarth (1697-1764), demonstrates the popular view of 18th century- medicine as a ghoulish occupation involving skeletons, cauldrons of boiling bones, and buckets of…

A Going! A Going!
In A Going! A Going!, a physician, himself rosy-cheeked, well-fed, and hence well-paid, visits an sickly patient too ill to leave his bedroom. A list of prescriptions on the table and a collection of medications on the window sill indicate that an…

Giving Up the Ghost or One Too Many
As in Hogarth’s Reward of Cruelty, the physician in Giving up the Ghost or One Too Many is associated with corpses, skeletons, and death. While the sleeping doctor is oblivious to everything, his patient succumbs in spite of discarded medications…

Dropsy Courting Consumption
During the 18th and 19th centuries certain illnesses became markers of affluence and refinement. Consumption (tuberculosis), was associated with delicate femininity or Romantic sensibility. This print portrays a courting couple, destined for the…

Monsieur de Pourceaugnac
Rabelais helped to establish a French tradition for satirizing the medical profession that continued for generations in various artistic genres. The razor-witted Montaigne (1533-1592) once quipped, “And how many have not escaped dying, who have had…

The Last Gasp or Toadstools Mistaken for Mushrooms
As in Molière’s comedic plays, Rowlandson’s The Last Gasp demonstrates the gullibility of people who depend on quacks. In the image, a toad-like man and his wife stick out their tongues for a physician who visits them in their finely appointed…

Rabelais Dissecting Society
François Rabelais (ca. 1490-1553), who studied medicine at Paris just a few years before Vesalius, was likely a source of the derisive attacks against medicine addressed in the Fabrica: “we owe the fact that so many scoffs are wont to be cast at…
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