This engraving, by the French printmaker Jean Baptiste Fosseyeux, reproduces an original painting by Gerrit Dou. The work, titled "The Dropsical Woman," shows a young but finely-robed doctor examining the urine of a female patient. By her side, an adult woman and a young girl hover with attentive concern. The lavish setting of this examination (including the tapestry curtain draped across the picture plane at right, the gold chandelier at center, and the room's fine furnishings) may indicate that this youthful, unbearded doctor could be a charlatan after the family's obvious wealth.
"Dropsical" refers to the condition of dropsy, a term originating from the Greek hydropisy, or excessive water. Individuals who suffered from dropsy exhibited excess fluid buildup, sometimes stemming from heart or kidney problems. Urine analysis was one of the few non-invasive diagnostic tools available to early physicians. Bodily fluids were examined for deposits, discoloration, or other foreign sediment.
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