- Museum number
- Object: The examination, of a young surgeon.
Plate from the 'Scourge', ii. 263 (second state). Members of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons sit on the outer side of a horse-shoe table, four on each side of the Master, who sits in a raised chair, wearing a gown, bands, and hat. On the table before him are a skull and bone. The examinee, trembling and insignificant, stands on the extreme left, facing a man who has risen from his chair to say angrily, "Describe, the Organs of Hearing"; the latter's neighbour listens intently through an ear-trumpet. The next Examiner sleeps with folded arms; next, and on the Master's right, is a man turning his back on the Master and holding his nose while he studies a book: 'Question upon Wind I Suppose a man was to . . . What w . . . you . . .' The aged and toothless Master (Sir Charles Blicke, 1745-1815) listens with senile intensity through an ear-trumpet. On his left two Scots, ungainly fellows wearing tartan, are absorbed in conversation; one says: "you paid too dear for it brother Sergeant," the other takes snuff from a mull. Next is a fat man with swathed gouty legs; crutches lie on the ground beside him; he has a paper 'THH [sic] COW POX CRONICLE', suggesting that he is Jenner (not a surgeon). He has a pen in his mouth, spectacles on forehead, and looks sideways at his neighbour, a lean old man who is intently counting piles of coin. In the foreground is a trough containing books; a man stands near it holding a large volume and looking towards examiner and examinee. A man leaves the room (right) looking over his shoulder with shocked distress, and exclaiming "Oh!" In his pocket is a paper: 'A Peter on the Gravel'.
The Master's chair is decorated with skulls; from its back projects a striped pole supporting a skull which serves as a wig-block, emblem of the old connexion between surgeons and barbers, see No. 9092, &c. Under the chair are money-bags, one inscribed '£50', the other 'For Shirt'. Behind the chair are two niches or alcoves in each of which a skeleton is suspended by the neck from a rope; one (left) is 'Govenor [sic] Wall' [see No. 9845], the other 'Lady Brownrigg'. These are symmetrically flanked by four pictures:  a prizefight between a black pugilist and a skeleton at which the Master of the College presides, standing before his chair.  Saartjie Baartman, 'the Hottentot Venus', see No. 11577, &c., stands in profile to the right while 'Nobody', a man whose legs are jointed to his shoulders as in No. 12438, &c., points with amusement at her huge posterior.  A young woman without arms or legs, placed on a bergere, is inspected by an ugly man, who points at her.  A brazen cow (or golden calf) is supported on a garlanded pillar on whose base is a crown; round this men, apparently surgeons, dance gleefully, holding hands in a ring. On the extreme left of the wall is an ornate clock, showing that the time is eleven. It is topped by a grinning figure of Time holding an hourglass. On the ground is a paper: 'At the sign of the Cow's Head Lincolns Inn Feilds'.
1 October 1811
- Production date
Height: 203 millimetres
Width: 390 millimetres (cropped)
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
The College of Surgeons was established by royal Charter in 1800, after a contest with the old Surgeons' Company, see No. 9092, &c. The Court of Examiners were ten, named in the Charter, one being the Master. The plate illustrates 'Medical Science Exemplified', pp. 263-8, ridiculing the education and examination of surgeons with special reference to two Scottish examiners, clearly David Dundas and Everard Home (see No. 11864), both Serjeant-surgeons to the King. It reflects a hatred of the surgeon expressed in several prints, cf. Nos. 9092, 11800. Blicke accumulated a large fortune and was prominent but undistinguished in his profession. The old Surgeons Hall in the Old Bailey was sold in 1796 and replaced by the house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. In the old hall skeletons had been mounted in niches. That of Mrs. Brownrigg the murderess was bought in 1768, C. Wall, 'Hist. of the Surgeons' Company', 1937, pp. 69-70.
There is a first state with the title 'Examination at Golgotha; or, the College of Skulls'.
Reid, No. 126. Cohn, No. 732.
The first state was not used as an illustration to the Scourge.
- Not on display
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Scourge
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number