Monkeys as barber-surgeons

Monkeys play a great role in the work of Coryn (Quirjin) Boel the Younger (1620–1668), engraver of Brussels and Antwerp. Specialized in making engravings of old masters, especially those of David Teniers, he often shows monkeys playing backgammon, giving concerts, or enjoying sophisticated breakfasts. At a time when most of healthcare in Europe was provided by scantily trained barber-surgeons, why not also show monkeys stitching up minor cuts, preparing medicinal potions, or taking care of foot problems, as well as performing their traditional functions of shaving and cutting hair?

The Barber-Surgeon’s Shop Operated by Monkeys by Coryn Boel, after David Teniers II. Mid-17th century. Philadelphia Museum of Art.



Winter 2020  |  Sections  |  Vignettes at Large