Manchester Art Gallery

The Dentist

Object description

The unfortunate patient seems calm as the dentist prepares to remove the infected tooth. All eyes are on the patient, even the figure in the drawing, which may reference the artist himself. In the 1600s, dentists were stereotyped as quacks, or imposters, ready to swindle a patient's money - in fact, tooth pulling was often a fairground attraction. The shiny barber's bowl on the floor to the right refers to the dentist as a barber-surgeon. They not only removed teeth, but also performed surgeries, sold medicine and cut hair, often with no formal training. Teniers was a Flemish artist celebrated for his fine details and excellent draughtsmanship. He worked in Antwerp and Brussels, where his paintings of peasant life were popular amongst collectors.

Display label

The Dentist 1652 David Teniers 1610 - 1690 Oil on panel Dentists, like doctors, were often seen as quacks and tooth pulling was often a fairground attraction. Usually the victim would be howling in pain surrounded by a group of gawping peasants, but this scene is remarkably restrained and sympathetic. An old peasant has come to the dentist's house. On the table are pots and potions and on the floor a barber's bowl. No doubt the dapper practitioner combined both jobs. Assheton - Bennett bequest 1979.506