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'Operation for Stones in the Head', Netherlands, 1601-1700

This print shows a woman undergoing a surgical operation. Undoubtedly she is in great pain and needs to be restrained, especially as this was a time before anaesthetics. The inscription at the bottom probably translates as ‘Come run, be filled with joy; here we are cutting the woman of her “stone.”’ In the 1600s and 1700s, especially in the Low Countries such as the Netherlands, someone with metal health problems was characterised as having a stone in their head. Travelling practitioners would pretend to remove a stone from the head by making an incision in the scalp and by sleight of hand appear to produce a stone. This print is based on an engraving by Nicolaes Weydmans, a Dutch artist working sometime during the 1600s. The print is unusual as it shows a woman undergoing an operation, the majority of similar prints showed men operating on male patients.

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    Glossary: print

    Pictorial works produced by transferring images by means of a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen, using any of various printing processes. When emphasizing the individual printed image, use "impressions." Avoid the controversial expression "original prints," except in reference to discussions of the expression's use. If prints are neither "reproductive prints" nor "popular prints," use just "prints."

    Glossary: anaesthetic

    An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

    Glossary: engraving

    A technique to obtain prints from an engraved surface. Engraving is the practice of cutting into a hard, usually flat surface.