Manchester Art Gallery

The Doctor's Visit

Object description

A shadowy domestic interior with a young woman seated in the foreground to the left, in an orange silk dress, with a maroon fur trimmed housecoat and white headscarf. She leans against a pillow on the table to the left, with one hand raised to her forehead, a peeled orange on a silver plate lying on the table beside the pillow, her feet resting on a footwarmer. An older couple stand behind her looking in a concerned manner at a phial which the doctor holds up in his right hand. The doctor is dressed in black with touches of white at the neck and wrists. A small dog stands in the bottom left corner, beside a silver chamber pot.

Display label

The Doctor's Visit around 1665 Jacob Ochtervelt 1634 - 1682 Oil on canvas A doctor has been called to attend an ailing girl. He examines a phial of urine - a common diagnostic tool then, as now. But modern scientific analysis differs from the variety of interpretation placed on the sample by medical men in the 17th century, when physicians built their knowledge on classical texts and superstition. Opinion was that the womb floated around the body, its insatiable appetite making women unstable; and the best way to combat this was to marry and have plenty of children. Perhaps this is the cure for the patient's melancholy. Her feet are resting on a foot warmer, a little box with a brazier inside. Doctors frowned on them because they were thought to fan the flames of desire. In this painting the brazier's opening is to the front, emphasising the girl's relaxed legs and her need for sexual fulfilment. Assheton - Bennett bequest 1979.536