Egbert van Heemskerck (I): Portrait of the family of Jacob Fransz. Hercules in his barber shop (1669)

(Amsterdam Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Egbert van Heemskerck (I) (1634-1704). This painting is a family portrait but also a genre painting. The painting offers us a view of the practice of a barber surgeon. Barber surgeons treated external diseases, especially the ones which involved any type cutting. Barber surgeons learned their profession from another Barber surgeon although later a theory exam was required. Doctors treated internal diseases, studied at an university and usually regarded cutting in a patient as beneath their social status. Doctors usually acted as a general practitioner - if the cure would involve some sort of cutting, the patient was send to a barber surgeon.  Depicted standing in the center is Jacob Fransz. Hercules (1635-1707), a master barber surgeon who had his shop at the Anjeliersgracht (now the Westerstraat) in Amsterdam. Jacob is performing a bloodletting, a type of cure which was performed by barber surgeons (the idea of bloodletting was that every person had 4 types of bodily fluids, called humours: Blood, Yellow bile, Black bile and Phlegm. A mental of physical disease was caused by a surplus or imbalance of one of these four fluids. The patient on this painting is Thomas Fransz. Hercules (?-1695), brother of Jacob. Standing next to his father with a bowl in his hand is Thomas Jacobsz Hercules. Sitting on a raised platform (a so-called 'attic') is Anna Jans ter Borgh (1634-1707), wife of Jacob Fransz. Hercules. The two kids who are standing next to Anna Jans are two of her children Frans (he also became a master barber surgeon) and Francijntje. In the background a servant is shaving somebody (the profession of barber surgeon usually did not suffice in a regular salary so most barber surgeons also had a barbershop to get a higher revenue, plus cutting someone's hair was a good starting point for new pupils). Waiting to be cut with the newspaper is Jan Knol - Jan Knol was a former criminal (the paper which identifies the persons on the painting describes him as an 'evil man', Dutch quaetaerdich man’) who had served in prison but when released became a better man. The profession of barber surgeon was practiced by almost all the male members of this family: the father and grandfather of Jacob Fransz. Hercules were master barber surgeons. His two children Thomas and Frans also became master barber surgeons. The shop & living room also has a stuffed swordfish hanging on the ceiling, a painting of a corpse and a skeleton (above Anne Jans), a cabinet with jars and a rack with (cutting) tools. Painting from 1669.




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