17th century Flemish and Dutch paintings

Oudendijck, Evert
7.500 €

A doctor inspecting a flask of urine
Oil on panel : 37,2 X 29,2 cm
Signed bottom right “E. oudendijck”
Frame : 50,7 X 43,3 cm

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About Evert Oudendijck

Dutch painter
Birthplace unknown 1648/1653 – 1695 Haarlem

Pupil of Adriaen van Ostade in Haarlem in 1663; that year van Ostade paid a fee to the Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke for his pupil Evert Oudendijck.
Oudendijck must have remained active in Haarlem for the rest of his life.

Painter of genre scenes and of landscapes.

Evert’s second son, Adriaen Oudendijck (1677 – 1704), was a landscape and genre scene painter. According to the painter’s biographer, Arnold Houbraken (in his ‘De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen’ from 1718) Adriaen was nicknamed Rapianus (thief) for his habit of copying animals after Adriaen van de Velde and figures after Thomas Wijck.

About our painting

I have found only one painting by Oudendijck that is very similar to ours.
This painting’s subject seems to be the office of a notary. It is signed and dated 1688. Strangely enough some sources have erroneously given this painting to his son Adriaen, which is absolutely impossible, for Adriaen was only 11 years old in 1688!
My apologies for the very bad photograph I found of this painting.

About 17th century representations of doctors

Seventeenth century Dutch genre painters, such as Jan Steen, Adriaen van Ostade, Richard Brakenburg, Pieter de Bloot, Jan Miense Molenaer or some of the Leiden Fine Painters loved representing dentists, quack doctors and real doctors at work.

Physicians were usually represented holding a urine flask.

In case they are visiting a pale young woman laying or sitting in bed her disease is lovesickness, which the painter is then laughing about.
In an open book in a painting by Jan Steen, in the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, one reads in Dutch ‘Medicine is of no avail, for the condition is lovesickness’. These scenes were inspired by contemporary theater plays.

In our painting the doctor is shown with much more esteem for his scientific knowledge. He sits in a rich interior at a desk covered with an expensive, magnificently painted Turkish carpet. He is surrounded by books and letters, an important Herbarium lays open in front of him.

In the back hangs a large fish from the ceiling. As it is not very detailed it is difficult to identify the fish. Maybe it could be a sturgeon, which in those days still lived in our waters.
Thomas Wijck regularly represented the disorder of a shabby interior of an alchemist with a large fish or crocodile hanging from the ceiling.
We should not forget mentioning the famous botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish father of biological classification of plants and animals (1707 – 1778). In his house near Uppsala still hangs a strange huge ‘fish’. It was a present from his pupils who, as a joke, had assembled different animals to produce one large species, unknown to their professor.

The doctor in our painting is holding a pair of reading glasses in his right hand. Eyeglasses seem to have been invented in Italy during the late 13th century. Following the invention of the printing press (middle 15th century) and the availability of books, newspapers and engravings to the ‘common’ man, its use became widespread. The best lenses were produced in Italy (Florence), the best frames in Germany (Nuremberg en Regensburg).
Seventeenth century spectacles did not have sides yet. Therefore they were not easy to keep in place. While reading one had to hold his head back or simply hold them in place with one hand.

The doctor is inspecting a flask with urine which might help him with his diagnosis. He will be looking for blood or pus or other symptoms of disease. The light coming through the windows is reflected in it. Some doctors would actually taste the patient’s urine; sweet urine would indicate diabetes. In those days urine could also be used to perform a (dubious) pregnancy test. A ribbon would be dipped in the patient’s urine and then burned …
Uroscopy regularly returns in 17th century representations of doctors. Painters and patients must have seen it as a positive factor giving faith in the physician’s ability to diagnose and prescribe.

Another interesting detail is the document with a read seal attached to it, laying on the extreme right of the desk. One should not forget that in 17th century Dutch painting no element ever comes accidently. I think this seal refers to Roemer Vischer’s emblem ‘Dat cera fidem’, meaning ‘the seal inspires confidence’. Practitioners, but also very often imposters and quack salvers, would display such a testimonials to proclaim their skills or even to prove that they were licensed to operate. To a 17th century viewer of our painting the connotation between the doctors and the letter with the read seal would have been obvious.

Our doctor must have been well off. Just as notaries or jewelers represented in other Dutch interior scenes painted during the 2nd half of the 17th century he is carrying an informal loose robe, a so-called ‘banyan’ or ‘robe de chambre’. These kimono-like garments were clearly based on Asian or Persian imports (these were the high days of the Dutch East Indies Company).
His head is covered with a very fashionable, richly embroidered nightcap.
Such a nightcaps seems to have been inspired by Russian and Turkish models. Contrary to its name a nightcap was not only worn in bed, but indoors at home in an informal setting.
Behind his right ear the doctor is carrying a feather pen. In front of his Herbarium stands an inkwell with another feather pen.

A very interesting exhibition about health care during the 16th and 17th century is announced in Bruges, at the Memling Museum in the Saint John’s Hospital, 100 meters from my gallery. It runs from September 29th until February 26th.

Comparative paintings
Click photos for more details