A Physician with an Enema Syringe

Pier Leone Ghezzi, Italian, 1674 - 1755

Made in Italy, Europe


Pen and brown ink over traces of black chalk on cream laid paper, with cream laid paper framing pieces, mounted down

Sheet: 14 3/8 x 9 5/16 inches (36.5 x 23.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the SmithKline Beckman (later SmithKline Beecham) Fund for the Ars Medica Collection, 1978

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Ghezzi was one of the most engaging figures of eighteenth-century Rome: a painter, theater designer, antiquarian, and dabbler in medicine, anatomy, and archaeology, as well as an accomplished musician. A prolific caricaturist, he left great numbers of humorous ink drawings of his contemporaries from all walks of life-aristocrats and artists, clerics and musicians, grand tourists and servants. The doctor here is identified in the inscription on the sheet as a nephew of one Dr. Romanelli and as practicing at a nearby abbey belonging to the Albani family.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Ghezzi’s early biographer, Nicola Pio, tells us that Pier Leone’s father, the artist Giuseppe Ghezzi, forced him to draw from the model with pen and ink only, a medium that allows for no corrections. This early discipline might account for Ghezzi’s unerring facility with the pen and the fact that he chose that medium for his caricatures, the ink usually being very dark. The inscription that Ghezzi himself wrote beneath this drawing tells us that the genial physician who has just wandered into our field of vision is the nephew of Dr. Romanelli and had arrived in Rome just over a week ago (his hat is still under his arm) to practice medicine with his uncle at an abbey belonging to the Albani family. Ghezzi saw him there and drew from memory. It is not known whether the artist, then seventy-eight years old, visited the doctor in the capacity of patient, but if he did, and whatever his ailment, administration by enema of any pharmaceutical a doctor favored, or had invented, was the cure of choice in the eighteenth century. This common aspect of medical practice gave rise to a host of caricatures ranging from the scurrilous to the ridiculous (see Posner, Donald. “Watteau’s Reclining Nude and the ‘Remedy’ Theme.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 54, no. 4 {December 1972}, pp. 383-89). Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 43.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. Ars Medica: Art, Medicine, and the Human Condition. Exhibition catalogue by Diane Karp et al. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1985. no. 35, repro.