Like his contemporary Molière, the Dutchman Jan Steen makes fun of quack doctors, often shown in ridiculous costumes visiting young love-sick or pregnant women. In the Lovesick Maiden (Fig.1, Metropolitan Museum) the diagnosis is suggested by the painting of a Cupid above the door, the bed on the right, and the bed-warmer on the lower left. As an extra joke two dogs are copulating in the doorway. In the Physician’s Visit (Fig2, Apsley House) a similar diagnosis is suggested by a picture of Venus and Adonis, while the woman holding a flask of urine and the quack-doctor look knowingly at each other. In the Physician’s Visit from the Philadelphia Art Museum (Fig.3) the pompous doctor looks startled by the quickening of his patient’s pulse, presumably caused by the entrance of the cause of her disease on the left; and at the back a man laughs as he displays a herring. Here as in Sick Woman (Fig.4, Rijmuseum) the doctor has placed a piece of the woman’s dress in a heated vessel as a test for pregnancy.
George Dunea, MD, Editor-in-Chief