See caption
The Company of Undertakers, 1736
lithograph
267 mm × 183 mm (10.5 in × 7.2 in)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A Consultation of Physicians, or The Company of Undertakers, is an engraving by the English satirical artist and social critic William Hogarth (1697–1764), produced in 1736.[1] It takes the form of a mock coat of arms for physicians contained within a black border, signifying a recent death,[2] divided by a serrated wall.

Below the wall twelve physicians are examining a flask of urine, holding the heads of their canes – which would have contained a pomander – to their noses to disguise the smell. Above them are three noted quack doctors[a]The term quack doctor was applied to those practising medicine without a formal qualification,[3] which excluded all women, who were not allowed to enter medical schools until the late 19th century.[4] of the day: John TaylorEarly 18th-century English eye surgeon and medical charlatan. the oculist,[b]An oculist was an eye specialist.[5] Sarah Mapp18th-century bone-setter, nicknamed Crazy Sally. the bone-setter, and Dr Joshua Wood.[6]

By lumping professional physicians with the quacks and the bonesetter, Hogarth challenges the presumptions and pretensions that set the professionals and the quacks apart … The observer is left to conclude that consultation with either group will result in a request for the undertaker’s services.[6]

In Molière’s comic drama, Le Malade Imaginaire, written in 1673, the character Beralde observes that “medicine is only for those who are fit enough to survive the treatment as well as the illness”, [6] a view that Hogarth may have shared; the Latin motto Et Plurima Mortis Imago translates to “And many are the faces of death”.[7]

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Citations



Bibliography


Geraghty, Karen. “The Company of Undertakers: Satire and the Medical Profession.” AMA Journal of Ethics, vol. 3, no. 4, Apr. 2001, pp. 105–139, https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/issue/putting-bioethics-perspective.
OED. “Bone-Setter, n.” Oxford English Dictionary, Online, Oxford  University Press, 2019, https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/21310.
OED. “Oculist, n.” Oxford English Dictionary, Online, Oxford  University Press, 2021, https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/130385.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. A Consultation of Physicians, or The Company of Undertakers. https://philamuseum.org/collection/object/186658.
Porter, Roy. “Quacks: An Unconscionable Time Dying.” The Healing Bond: The Patient-Practioner Relationship and Therapeutic Responsibility, edited by Susan Budd and Ursula Sharma, Routledge, 1994, pp. 63–81.
Royal Collection Trust. The Company of Undertakers. https://www.rct.uk/collection/811603/the-company-of-undertakers.