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Crowning Achievements: Dentistry in the Ars Medica Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

March 28–May 30, 1999

Among the some 3,000 prints, drawings and photographs in the Ars Medica Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are a significant number of images pertaining to dentistry, of which 100 are featured in this exhibition. While tooth pulling is the most frequently depicted dental procedure, Crowning Achievements will also include advertising posters for tooth drops, pastes and whiteners; chromolithographed cards for 19th-century dentrifices; comic valentines sent anonymously to insult the dentist of one's choice; images of practicing dentists on the covers of popular sheet music; and even modern views of a trip to the dentist.

Caricatures by Honoré Daumier and Thomas Rowlandson are satirical depictions of dental work, and these representations continue to echo today--a dentist wielding blacksmith tongs, although long out-of-date in light of medical advances, is an image familiar to nearly everyone. Crowning Achievements will present these popular objects alongside prints, drawings and photographs showing varied aspects of the practice of dentistry in daily life.


Crowning Achievements will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring an introduction and entries by exhibition co-curator William Helfand, the noted ars medica expert, collector and author.

Main Building


John W. Ittmann • Curator of PrintsWilliam H. Helfand • Noted ars medica expert, collector and author

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