Dentistry and Art: Sans Douleur by Engelman after Roehn

This lithograph was produced by the French artist Gottfried Engelman (born 1788 died 1839). Some websites and textbooks put his first name as Godefroy. While he initially studied painting and drawing, he began studying lithography on/around 1814. This lithograph was based on a work by the French artist Adolphe Roehn (born 1780 died 1867). This work is believed to have been produced sometime in the 1820s.

Sans Doleur tooth extraction and dentist lithograph by Engelman after Roehn

The title – Sans Douleur – means “without pain.” However, at this time, given that local anesthesia was not invented until the 1860s, there was no way a tooth extraction could be done without pain.

In this lithograph, a French dentist/charlatan displays quite proudly the tooth he has just extracted from the young man to his left. There is the usual group of onlookers typical for these scenes. Behind the charlatan/dentist, a trained monkey mimics him. Would you go to a dentist who has a monkey in his/her office?

This is another reminder of how much dentistry has changed in the past 200 years.


Dentistry and Art: A Charlatan Dentist by Jan Miense Molenaer

Jan Miense Molenaer was a Dutch Golden Age genre painter who lived from 1610 to 1668. His paintings depict normal life for the Dutch at that period of time. Not surprisingly, he has more than one work that depicts dentists (or more accurately – individuals claiming to have dental skills).

The following painting does not have a true name, but is often described as a Charlatan dentist:

The Charlatan Dentist painting by the Dutch painter Jan Miense Molenaer

The Charlatan Dentist. Clicking on the image will show a very high resolution reproduction.

The painting shows the “dentist” in a dramatic red hat. He is most likely pulling a tooth with his bare hands and no instruments. The usual onlookers are present. An elderly woman in a black hat – whose sunken in face suggests no remaining teeth – is holding the patient’s arm down.

You can see the typical basket of eggs that is usually paid to the dentist/charlatan for his work. And you can also observe someone stealing an item from the basket being held by the lady in red. This thievery is is seen in many other paintings, such as The Tooth Puller by Gerard Van Honthorst.

When you see a painting like this, just be glad that when you show up for your appointment, your dentist is not wearing a red hat like that guy!

Dentistry and Art: The Dentist by Pietro Longhi

Pietro Longhi was a Venetian painter who lived from 1702 – 1785. He primarily painted contemporary scenes and daily life of residents of Venice in the mid 1700s.

Pietro Longhi the Dentist oil Painting showing a tooth extraction in the 1700s in Venice

The Dentist, sometimes also referred to as The Tooth Puller or Il Cavadenti, painted approximately 1750. Clicking on the image will show a larger version

This painting does not include the gory scenes as depicted in works by Caravaggio or Gerard van Honthorst. Rather, it elevates the “dentist” into somewhat of a magician-like figure. But, similar to other works, it shows the dentist having just pulled a tooth. Other procedures (root canals, crowns, etc) that we associated with modern dentistry have not yet been invented.

There are several masked individuals and a person of small stature is at the foreground. All of this suggests some type of Venetian Carnival type atmosphere.

On a lighter note, there are three individuals, probably early teens, looking up and admiring the dentist. Based on this viewpoint, doesn’t it appear that they are holding smartphones and taking pictures?

Dentistry and Art: Lambert Doomer The Dentist

I’ve featured baroque dental paintings in the past, including masterpieces from Caravaggio and Gerard Van Honthorst. This is another baroque piece but it is a pen and ink drawing as opposed to oil on canvas. This is from the Dutch painter Lambert Doomer (1623 – 1700).

Lambert Doomer painting drawing of dentist from baroque era

High quality electronic reproduction of this drawing. Clicking on the image will yield a much larger version.

There are several interesting observations about this piece. First, we notice that the “dentist” is seated behind the patient with his assistant to his right. The assistant is ready to hand the “dentist” a vial and ensures that the three of them are underneath the umbrella. The ergonomics of this scene are very similar to the way dentistry is practiced now.

Secondly, the “dentist” also has a sword on his belt! I can only hope for the patient’s sake that the “dentist” isn’t planning on using it! I can assure you that if I wore a sword on my belt while practicing dentistry, I wouldn’t be in business for too much longer.

Lastly, we see the basket of eggs at the feet of the patient. This is typical for this era, as eggs were frequently used as payment for services of this kind back then.

This artwork, along with many of the other pieces I’ve posted in my Dentistry and Art series, should make us glad we live in 2013!