Cartoons and Caricatures

In contrast to portraiture, cartoons and caricatures represent a more complicated and critical image of the doctor in visual history. They satirize the physician-patient relationship, playing on (and contributing to) cultural stereotypes of doctors as over-zealous or as charlatans. The phenomenon of "quackery" – unqualified doctors tricking and taking advantage of patients for money – contributed to a sense of popular mistrust toward medical men. Numerous cartoons also depict patients subjected to ridiculous treatments at the hands of the doctor. A physician’s professional vanity is often shown in popular imagery to cause death and dismay to his patients – whether he is distracted by other pursuits, or caught up in narcissistic debates with other doctors. Cartoons and caricatures thus offer insight into the different ways in which the medical profession was perceived by ordinary people.

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