The Doctor’s Visit, about 1663, Jan Steen (Dutch, 1625/6–1679), oil on panel
Steen was a specialist in genre, or scenes of everyday life. He stands apart from other painters by the satirical nature of his work. Here, a doctor in outdated costume and clumsy pose takes the pulse of a richly dressed young woman. Steen offers the diagnosis in the text on the floor: “No medicine is of use, for it is lovesickness.” Recent scholarship suggests that the young woman is suffering from a “wandering womb,” which could be cured only by sexual activity. With little subtlety, the artist poses the cure in the provocatively pointing bedwarmer at lower left and the bulbous lute hanging on the wall. The pungent odor of the ribbon burning in the brazier on the floor was intended to rouse the patient from her lethargic state.