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Silver gilt eye bath with case, London, England, 1786

Eye baths are a means of applying a liquid medicine or a simple wash to a notoriously sensitive part of the body. Once the silver bowl was filled with liquid, the patient would place the bath over one eye, tilt the head back and open and close their eye repeatedly in the liquid. The bowl is curved to fit the socket of the eye and avoid spillage. Such treatment may have been needed for an infection or to remove an irritation. This fine silver gilt example has its own case of green shagreen – a type of fish skin – with a red velvet lining. The expensive materials indicate that this was owned by a wealthy person.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: ophthalmology

The branch of medicine dealing with the diseases and surgery of the visual pathways (usually the eyes or the brain).

Glossary: eye bath

A small glass or vessel for applying lotion to the eye. This is often necessary to sooth irritation.