Medical electricity in an apothecary's shop
The painting shows the inside of an apothecary shop. The patient is undergoing electrotherapy, which was used to treat a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The patient looks as though he is in great pain as the current is passed through his knee. The outside window of the shop is painted with the words “Medical Electricity to the Poor, GRATIS, From 8 til 10”. Gratis is a Latin word meaning ‘free’. The apothecary also offered wet cupping, a type of bloodletting. The artist of the painting is probably Edmund Bristowe (1787-1876).
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The application of a heated cup to the skin, creating a slight vacuum , which causes swelling of the tissues beneath and an increase in the flow of blood to the area. This was thought to draw out harmful excess blood from diseased organs nearby and so promote healing.
Glossary: oil painting
The passing of electric currents through the body's tissues to stimulate the functioning of nerves and the muscles.
Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.