A Surgeon Treating a Peasant's Foot

Image credit: Glasgow Life Museums

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This painting depicts a barber-surgeon removing a plaster from a patient's foot while his female assistant heats a replacement bandage over hot coals. The presence of a crystal ball, suspended at the top of the painting, makes the moral message of this painting, quite literally, crystal clear. It symbolizes the empty vanity of man, with the surgeon an incompetent charlatan and the patient a gullible fool. This was a popular subject for Teniers, one of the most famous Flemish painters of the 17th century. He painted a diverse range of subjects including portraits, allegorical subjects, genre works, still lifes, landscapes and religious scenes, but is perhaps best known for his depictions of peasant life.

A Surgeon Treating a Peasant's Foot




oil on panel


H 36.8 x W 27.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Archibald McLellan Collection, purchased, 1856

Work type


Inscription description



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