The baroque artist Jan Steen (1626 – 1679) is one of the best representatives of the costumbrista painting that triumphed so much in the Netherlands during the 17th century. He has paintings with all kinds of everyday scenes in Dutch society. For example, The party of a baptism or the portrait that he makes of what a rural school was like in his painting The Village School
Jan Steen's Doctor's Visit
There were certain subjects to which he devoted several paintings, both because they interested him personally and that they were undoubtedly somewhat successful and he sold them easily. One of those subjects was the medicine of the time and he painted up to 18 times a scene in which the doctor visits a patient, always a woman. An example is this oil on panel en titled The doctor's visit, made between 1665 and 1668, and currently kept in the Museo Mauritshuis in The Hague.
As in so many works by Steen the scene is not only like a snapshot of the customs of the time, but also has a lot of humor. When painting this type of scenes of a young woman who is visited by the doctor, as a general rule the scheme is repeated. The girl is bedridden, in a way that is as dramatic as it is romantic, since her ailment is usually lovesickness or even unwanted pregnancies.
We know that because there is usually a certain complicity betweenthe maid and the doctor. In addition to the fact that it is also common for the doctor's work to be reduced to examining the woman's urine, as in this case, and sometimes taking her pulse. While she is languid, sad and in pain on a comfortable bed and endless cushions.
However, there are also interpretations that the doctor might be thinking that she has a “wandering uterus” problem. An alleged disease that was taken very seriously at the time, and according to which, the uterus of a girl of a certain age began to move through the body if she remained a virgin, that is, without a husband.
That disease doesn't really exist, and yet doctors could only prescribe one thing to remedy it: having sex. Something thatJan Steenhere expresses with her characteristic humor through the presence of two small dogs at the top of the stairs. Two dogs that sniff each other as an act prior to having sex. An idea that is also linked to the large painting in the upper part of the room above the bed, a mythological scene in which some men are kidnapping some women.