Manchester Art Gallery

The Doctor's Visit

Object description

The pale, young woman and the two older women standing behind her wait to hear the doctor's diagnosis as he examines a vessel of her urine. In the 1600s, it was thought that young unmarried women were in a perilous condition, plagued by maladies that could only be averted by regular pregnancies, since the uterus was assumed to have an insatiable appetite for sex. The oranges and dog imply the young woman yearns for love and marriage. Her feet rest on a foot warmer, which has a lit brazier inside. These devices were understandably popular in the icy Dutch winters, but they were frowned on by doctors, who warned that they fanned the flames of desire. Here, the girl's relaxed legs and the position of the brazier, with the opening to the front, emphasise her presumed need for sexual fulfilment. Ochtervelt was a painter of high-life interiors who particularly favoured themes of flirtation and love.

Display label

The Doctor’s Visit about 1665 Jacob Ochtervelt 1634-82 Oil on panel The pale, young woman and the two older women standing behind her wait to hear the doctor’s diagnosis as he examines a vessel of her urine. In the 1600s, it was thought that women who were not married or pregnant could become hysterical. This was due to furor uterinis or uterine fits, when the womb floated painfully around the body. The best cure was to have many children. The oranges and dog imply the young woman yearns for love and marriage. Her feet rest on a foot warmer, which has a lit brazier inside. The heat was thought to fan the flames of desire. Assheton Bennett bequest 1979.536