London: Printed for Robert Sayer, Map & Printseller, near Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street, 1748. Unbound. n.d. (ca. 1748-1760). Large mezzotint (355 x 257 mm). Professionally mounted on archival paper, preserved in mylar L-sleeve with lig-free board support. Some flaws to mezzotint include loss of the word "flies" in the caption (line 1), tear along physician's left arm, and two pinholes at the top; crease evident along horizontal fold. Very good. Item #2435
Rare version of this justly famous mezzotint by Spooner after Adriaen van Ostade, in which a bearded physician, wearing a cap, sits in his study and examines a round-bottomed flask partially filled with liquid (presumably urine), his right elbow resting on a book on the table beside him, open to show depictions of plants, his right hand tucked into his robe. The British Museum has several versions of this print, including a very small and square mezzotint (144 x 144 mm), reversed, in which the mezzotint was executed by Richard Houston for Bowles & Carver. Another version of our mezzotint was likewise executed by Spooner but the size is quite reduced (152 x 114) and there is no indication of a publisher, nor of a caption. The caption on our engraving, apparently recorded here for the first time, reads: "To Medicine's Aid the Wretch in Sickness Flies, And hopes from Man what Providence denies; Meanwhile the Doctor tries his utmost Skill, To Cure his Patient - but if not - To Kill" (sic). The examples in the National Library of Medicine and the Wellcome Collection were apparently extracted from "The Most Capital Paintings in England" series in 5 vols. The bespoke prints are completely different than ours; not only are they smaller, and dated (1763), but the caption reads: "Physick. From the original picture of the same size painted by Ostade, in the collection of the right Honourable William Beckford Esq. Lord Mayor of the City of London; to whom this plate is most respectfully inscribed by His Lordships most obliged, and most humble servant J. Boydell."
¶ We date our example to "ca. 1748-1760" due to the fact that Robert Sayer resided near Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street during this time.
¶ Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) was one of the most prolific Dutch artists of the 17th century. Trained in the studio of Franz Hals, he became well-known for his lively genre paintings of peasants, lawyers, doctors, farmers, and various trades. Later, influenced by the style of Rembrandt, he employed a warmer palette and deeper chiaroscuro effects, as here. ¶ Not in Chaloner Smith, John, British Mezzotinto portraits from the introduction of the art to the early part of the present century, 4 vols., London, 1883.