Included in the remarkable Ars Medica Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are a significant number of images pertaining to dentists and their profession. One hundred of these works will be featured in Crowning Achievements: Dentistry in the Ars Medica Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an exhibition that will be on view from March 28 through May 30, 1999, in the Director's Corridor on the Museum's ground floor. While tooth pulling is the procedure most frequently depicted in this distinctive artistic genre, Crowning Achievements will also include advertising posters for tooth drops, pastes and whiteners; chromolithographed cards for 19th-century dentrifices; comic valentines sent anonymously to insult the dentist of one's choice; images of dentists at work on the covers of popular sheet music; and even modern views of a trip to the dentist.
Caricatures by Honoré Daumier and Thomas Rowlandson are satirical depictions of dental work, and these representations continue to echo today—a dentist wielding blacksmith tongs, although long anachronistic in light of medical advances, is an image familiar to nearly everyone. Crowning Achievements will present these popular objects alongside prints, drawings and photographs showing varied aspects of the practice of dentistry in daily life.
Crowning Achievements has been organized by William H. Helfand, the author of numerous books and articles on graphic medical images, and John W. Ittmann, the Museum's Curator of Prints. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring an introduction and entries by Mr. Helfand.
The Ars Medica Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art was first funded in 1948 by generous grants from Smith Kline and French Laboratories, a predecessor of SmithKline Beecham. Now comprised of some 3,000 prints, drawings, photographs and rare books, the collection illuminates the complex interrelationships between the worlds of medicine, pharmacy, public health and the visual arts.