Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- Genre painting is a style of painting that depicts scenes from everyday life. Sometimes genre paintings depict calm interiors, as seen in the works of Johannes Vermeer. In other examples (like this one), genre paintings criticize or joke about an aspect of daily life.
- The Dentist is making fun of the dental profession. When Molenaer created this painting, dentists were known for pulling teeth unnecessarily and charging money to do it. The patient in this work appears to be at the mercy of an unqualified, greedy dentist.
- Part of the amusement of this work is the patient’s clutching of the rosary. As a result of the Reformation, the Dutch population was largely Protestant. They would have considered the patient’s trust in his rosary beads to be foolish.
Another common comical grouping: an attentive doctor, smiling woman, and patient writhing in pain who uselessly grips a rosary for help. The dentist’s clothing would have been recognized as old-fashioned or theatrical, exposing him as a quack.
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about genre paintings in Northern Europe.
- Read an article that explores the term “Dutch Golden Age.”
- Read a short biography of Molenaer.
Resources for Students: