Most portraits include specific objects and visual references that relate to
the careers of the medical practitioners that they depict. Many of the accoutrements
used in this kind of professional medical portrait share common traits and
themes, which remained consistent over the period covered by the collection.
The most common and recurring props used in this type of portraitureincluded
books, papers, and writing implements. The use of theseprops fed into a
central trope depicting the medical man as learned. Popular compositions
represented the sitter in a domestic context, often a library, surrounded
by books either seated in an armchairor stood next to a writing desk. The
desire for medical practitionersto be characterised in an intellectual light
can be seen in the contextof the enlightenment and the principle that knowledge
was at theforefront of progress.
Some portraits, although not all, used objects to make specific reference to
the careers of the men depicted or to particular achievementsand specialisms.
In this way, prints were often used as a way tocelebrate or create a public
reputation for the sitter within theirlifetime or posthumously.