Zene Artzney
Zene Artzney


The extraction of a tooth seems to have aiways been regarded as a fascinating event and can be followed, in diverse forms of representation, from pre-Christian times to the present day. Caricaturists depict human behaviour, especially human weakness and its consequences, so as to ridicule contemporary habits, established views and authorities. The effect may be frivolous and amusing through to brutal and sickening.The practice of dentistry from its most primitive to the most modern form has been and still is an ideal subject for caricature. Something in a caricature must allow the viewer to recognize immediately what it is about. This often means an exaggeration in form or size of some characteristic object which thus becomes symbolic for the theme.
Tooth drawing, whether on the market place by a travelling showman or as a lucrative sideline for the village smith or barber or in the more noble surroundings of an established town dentist, has a wealth of such symbols which were much used in caricature. The exaggerated size of the extraction instrument, the extracted tooth, the facial distortion of the victim/patient and the huge, brutal forearms of the dentist are all used to good effect. Human weaknesses such as the sensitivity to pain, fear and vanity, all of which play a role in caricature of tooth drawing, relate not only to the patient. The onlookers and even large audiences to such scenes show fascination, even pleasure, at the discomfort of the victim, and perhaps fear that they could find themselves one day in that victim's place.
The tooth drawing scenes in paintings of the Dutch School of the seventeenth Century were much copied and reproduced in the nineteenth Century as engravings or etchings.
The intimate proximity of the dentist and patient inevitably supplies munition for the humour and derision of the caricaturist. However, only in the twentieth Century could the erotic aspects of this Situation be widely published.
The sheer injustice done to a patient already cruelly punished by toothache having then to undergo fearful discomfort in treatment (usually extraction) and then actually being further punished by having to pay for it is an natural subject for the caricaturist.
Wilhelm Busch's (1832-1908) „Der hohle Zahn" (1862) combines this injustice with ano-ther much parodied aspect of dental treatment; the changing face from pain-wracked through toothache and extraction to blessed relief afterwards and then again the sour face as the bill is presented.
The violence of the extraction procedure itself especially at the hands of the ignorant amateur or avaricious charlatans gave the caricaturist of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the opportunity to display the dentist as a coarse and brutal fellow. This reputation stayed long after it was deserved and even today has not entirely disappeared.
From the beginning of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth Century England produced the most engravings and etchings of caricature. William Hogarth produced etchings with moralistic, didactic content as well as bitter social comment. The hand-coloured etchings of Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) with dental themes are cartoon-like in their simplicity but show all the characteristics of caricature with exaggerated facial expressions and large symbolic objects. George Cruikshank (1792-1878), who also produced hand-coloured etchings, gave us „The Toothache". Cruikshank's style originally clearly caricature and intended to be socially critical led directly to the use of cartoon-like pictures one after the other forming the comic strip and to the simplified Illustration in children's books. Interestingly the exaggeration of form and size of objects used in caricature becomes somehow blunted and harmless in children's books and comic strips. The person with toothache always has a vastly swollen face on one side, usually with a coloured cloth knotted around it. This makes no social comment nor does it threaten, it merely says „This person has toothache".

Picture Galery "Caricatures"