An Operator Extracting a Tooth

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License of this image: CC-BY-SA
License of original image: Wellcome Library, London - CC BY 4.0

By: after Theodor Rombouts
Created: 17th century, Collection: Wellcome Library, London, London, England Rights: CC BY 4.0

Complex to recreate because of the varied poses and expressions of the actors, particularly in getting the angle of the tooth extraction just right. Consider what props you'll need to replicate the tools on the table, as well as hats and costumes for all the different actors.

During the 17th century, tooth extractions were sometimes performed as part of a performance by travelling actors. These troupes travelled around the country with specialist tooth-drawers who had the skills, experience and expensive tools needed for such procedures. Many of these tools can be seen in this painting.

Although despised by local Guild surgeons, these troupes were very popular attractions and fairs and markets for not only carrying out a useful service but also for offering brilliant entertainment..

In this painting, the leader of the troupe performs – or pretends to perform – a tooth extraction, surrounded by fellow actors pretending to be casual bystanders. They are trying to trick a man in the right foreground to volunteer to have a bad tooth extracted or to buy medicine to ease the pain.

This painting is an example  of Caravaggesque style, named after the Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caragaggio, whose paintings were famous for their realistic observation of physical and emotional human states with dramatic use of lighting.