Thanks to modern anesthesia a visit to the dentist is now a pretty painless affair. This was not the case until relatively recently, and certainly not so in the seventeenth century, when dental services were often rendered by itinerant barber-surgeons. In the painting by Leiden artist Gerrit Dou, the tooth puller is extracting a tooth in semi-darkness as no better light seems to be available. The patient is clearly not likely to enjoy the procedure and a woman, perhaps the wife, is holding his hand to give him courage, for he needs any help he can get.
|Dentist by Candlelight by Gerrit Dou. c. 1660–65. Kimbell Art Museum.|