William Harvey

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Portrait of: William Harvey
By: Jacobus Houbraken
After: Wilhelm Von Bemmel
Style: Line engraving
Date: 1739
Dimensions: 22. 2 x 36. 3 cm

William Harvey (1578-1657) was a physician born in Kent. He studiedat Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. In 1609 Harvey became physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1639 Charles I made Harvey physician-in-ordinary. As such Harvey accompanied the King to Scotland on several occasions. In 1604, Harvey was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in London, where an annual oration is held in commemoration of him. His most acclaimed achievementwas his discovery of the circulation of the blood.

Many of the accoutrements used in the prints were used to embellish the frame instead of as props displayed within the image. Familiar images of books and medical diagrams were used here to illustrate Harvey’s career, in particular the image of the circulatory system to the sitter’s right. Other objectswere used to symbolise Harvey as a man of medicine, including the staff of Asclepius, an ancient symbol associated with medicine, healing, and the Greek God of medicine Asclepius. This is an interesting symbol to find in Harvey’s portrait as it reasserts a continuity with older traditions of medical theory based on the ideas of those including Galen and Aristotle, which Harvey’s discoveries were criticised for challenging and undermining.

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