The subject of this watercolor is a 17th century physician wearing plague preventive garb. The equivalent of a modern hazmat suit, the costume was made almost entirely of waxed leather. The hat indicated the physician’s profession, while the cane was used to manipulate objects at a distance. The beaked mask functioned as a primitive respirator, containing fragrant materials like rose, mint and lavender that promised to keep away the foul miasmas believed to transmit disease.
Credit Line: Image by the Wellcome Library, London (CC BY 4.0).