The Surgeon
Date 1670s
Artist:David Teniers the Younger, Flemish, 1610 - 1690
Dimensions Overall, Support: 22 1/2 x 29 in. (57.2 x 73.7 cm) Overall, Frame: 32 1/4 x 38 1/2 in. (81.9 x 97.8 cm)
Medium Oil on canvas
Credit Line Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
Description This oil on canvas painting depicts a scene in which two men are being treated by a surgeon. In the foreground, one man grimaces as the surgeon digs into his back . In the background, a faint and weak looking man being attended to by one of the surgeon's unskilled assistants. The figures are surrounded by the surgeon's potions and animal skeletons, as well as a monkey in the bottom corner..
Exhibition History"A Century of Baltimore Collecting, 1840-1940," Baltimore Museum of Art, 1941. (Exhib. cat. pp. 52-53).
"Dutch Old Masters from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," Art Gallery of the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, march 17 - April 14, 1950. (Exhib. cat. no. 16).
"Dutch and Flemish Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," The Virginia Museum of Arts, Richmond, VA, Oct. 19 - Nov. 25, 1951.
"Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," Portland Art Museum, Oregon, March 2 - April 15, 1956; Seattle Art Museum, Washington, April 27 - May 27, 1956; Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, June 12 - July 11, 1956; Los Angeles County Museum, California, July 26 - Aug. 26, 1956; Minneapolis Art Institute, Minnesota, Sept. 8 - Oct. 7, 1956; City Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, Oct. 19 - Nov. 18, 1956; William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City Missouri, Nov. 30, 1956 - Jan. 2, 1957; Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan, Jan. 18 - Feb. 17, 1957; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, March 7 - April 14, 1957. (Exhib. cat. no. 13).
"Chrysler Art Museum of Provincetown Inaugural Exhibition," Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1958. (Exhib. cat. no. 64).
"Baroque Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1963. (Exhib. cat. no. 22).
"Treasures from the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk and Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," Tennessee Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood, Nashville, June 12 - Sept. 5, 1977. (Exhib. cat. no. 12).
"Spotlight of the Month," Chrysler Museum, Oct. 1980.
"David Teniers; 1610-1690: Daily Life and Festivities in Flanders," Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, Germany, November 5, 2005 - February 19, 2006
Published ReferencesEric M. Zafran and Mario Amaya. _Treasures from the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk and Walter P. Chrysler, Jr._. Tennessee Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood, Nashville. 1977: no. 12.
Eric M. Zafran, reprinted. "Spotlight of the Month: Teniers," _The Chrysler Museum Bulletin_. Vol. 10, no. 10. 10/1980: n.p.
Chrysler Museum. _Selections from the Permanent Collection: The Chrysler Museum_. Norfolk, VA: Chrysler Museum of Art. 1982: p. 40.
Jefferson C. Harrison. "The Seventeenth Century in the North", _The Chrysler Museum Gallery Guide_. Norfolk, VA: Chrysler Museum. 1983: no. 14.
M. Therese Southgate, MD. "The Cover," _Jama_. Vol. 260, no. 3. 07/15/1988: p. 305, cover ill.
Danny Wedding, Ph.D. _Behavior and Medicine_. Mosby-Year Book, Inc.: St. Louis. 1990: p. 318.
Jefferson C. Harrison, _The Chrysler Museum Handbook of the European and American Collections: Selected Paintings, Sculptures, and Drawings_. Norfolk, VA: The Chrysler Museum, 1991, No. 38, p. 48, color ill. p. 49.
Ira M. Rutkow, M.D. _Surgery: An Illustrated History_. St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book, Inc. 1993, color ill. 119, p. 186.
"Surgery, Illustrated Desk Diary, 1998," Connecticut: Hilliard Publishing, LLC, 1998, cover, p. 3, June 29.
James Peck, M.D., "The art of surgery," _The American Journal of Surgery_ 187, no. 5 (May 2004): 569-574, fig. 6.
Margret Klinge and Dietmar Lüdke, _David Teniers der Jüngere, 1610-1690: Alltag und Vergnügen in Flandern_, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2005, 105-106.
Robert E. Greenspan, MD, _Medicine: Perspectives in History and Art_ (Alexandria, VA: Ponteverde Press, 2006), 134, 126-137. IBSN: 0-9724486-0-8
Jeff Harrison, _Collecting with Vision: Treasures From the Chrysler Museum of Art_ (London: D. Giles Ltd., 2007), 30, fig. 22. ISBN: 978-0-940744-72-1
Inscriptions Signed lower left: "D. TENIERS. FEC."
Provenance Marquis de Balleuil, Paris; Ernest de Weerth, Paris; Helen Baltzell de Weerth, Paris; Ernest W.A. de Weerth, Baltimore, 1941-1949; Acquavella Galleries, New York, 1949; Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.; Chrysler Museum at Provincetown; Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. to the Chrysler Museum, 1971.
Current Location Chrysler Museum of Art, Gallery 206
Catalog Entry David Teniers the Younger Flemish, 1610-1690 The Surgeon, 1670s Oil on canvas, 22½" x 29" (57.2 x 73.7 cm) Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 71.480 The Antwerp-born Teniers followed his father's lead as a painter and in 1633 joined the Antwerp painters' guild. His 1637 marriage to the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder allied him to another illustrious family of Flemish artists. In 1651 Teniers moved from Antwerp to Brussels, where he had been made court painters to the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, the governor of the southern Netherlands. He also became curator of the archduke's famous paintings collection, retaining both posts until 1659. Teniers was popular among his contemporaries and is highly prized today for his landscape paintings and satiric genre scenes. These works were renowned for their technical excellence, their brilliant surface values and carefully crafted details. Teniers' corpus of genre pictures includes innumerable images of carousing peasants, off-duty soldiers smoking in guard rooms, and alchemists at work. As seen in The Chrysler Museum painting, it also includes images of the country barber-surgeon. Already in the late Middle Ages, a good many members of the professional classes - lawyers, dentists, doctors - were satirized by Netherlandish writers and painters, who frequently portrayed doctors as charlatans and quacks. This was especially true of the lowly traveling barber-surgeon, whose medical skills were often nonexistent and whose hapless patients usually belonged to the rural lower class. The barber-surgeon typically treated wounds, removed skin growths, let blood, administered purges and even amputated limbs. He also served as the village barber. Teniers responded to the widespread prejudice against these pseudo-scientists by producing numerous pictures of quack doctors who study flasks of urine or operate on a gullible victim's head, foot or back. In the Museum's painting, a barber-surgeon tends to a patient's back, possibly preparing to lance a boil. At right the surgeon's young apprentice bends over a dish of glowing coals, warming a mustard plaster that will be applied to the wound. In the background an older assistant readies another patient for the doctor. The patient's rolled up sleeves suggest that he will be bled. On the stool nearby is the barber-surgeon's shaving basin, which possibly doubled as a bleeding bowl. Arrayed in the foreground in jugs and bottles, the doctor's various potions and medications compost a flawlessly executed still life. The primitive hocus-pocus of the barber-surgeon depended heavily on the pseudo-science of alchemy. In the painting both the fish skeleton and the globe suspended from the ceiling are alchemical images, and they point to the doctor's ignorant reliance on the debased, false science of alchemy. The chained monkey at the lower right carries the sharpest satiric bite of all. In contemporary northern European art, monkeys often appeared as symbols of foolishness, and Teniers' animal makes the association clear. He holds an apple, an emblem of the biblical Fall of Man and, thus, of humankind's sin and folly. The monkey bears witness generally to the foolishness of men who constantly run to the doctor, seeking cures for every minor ailment, when they should be tending to the health of their eternal souls. Indeed, the animal's posture "apes" the pose of the patient seated behind him. This visual pun suggests that the gullible man is, like the bound animal, a suffering victim, a captive of the doctor's stupidity and his own foolish acquiescence to it. In short, the patient is chained to his ignorance as the monkey is tied to his iron ball. Jefferson C. Harrison, _The Chrysler Museum Handbook of the European and American Collections: Selected Paintings, Sculptures, and Drawings_. Norfolk, VA: The Chrysler Museum, 1991, No. 38, p. 48, color ill. p. 49.
Object Label David Teniers the Younger Flemish, 1610–1690 The Surgeon, 1670s Oil on canvas Is there a doctor in the house? Not in this one. The medic in this picture is a lowly barber surgeon, a quack who preyed on the ignorant and poor. Surrounded by his potions and aided by two dimwitted assistants, he operates on a patient’s back, ignoring his painful yelp. The monkey crouching nearby is an age-old symbol of foolishness. He “apes” the patient’s pose, suggesting that the man is chained to the ignorant belief that the barber surgeon will cure him. Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 71.480
Object Number 71.480