Staffordshire Plate, c1780

This creamware plate was made in about 1780, and shows a laughing dentist extracting a tooth from his hapless patient. The design is based on a caricature produced by Tim Bobbin, first published in a book entitled Human Passions Delineated.

Pain and pleasure

If you take a closer look, you can see that the dentist holds a piece of hot coal in some tongs which he waves in the patient’s face. Why would he do this?

The hot coal may have been used to cauterize the wound and control the bleeding once the tooth had been extracted.

Or possibly this was a sadistic way of scaring the patient, causing him to jerk back against the thread and pull out the tooth.

What do you think?

Author: Cecilia Kendall, Curator

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