'Removing the Stone', engraving, 17th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Netherlandish engraving by H W Weydmans, showing a quack doctor about to make an incision in a woman's head to remove the stones that are supposedly embedded within it. The theme was a very popular one in late 16th and early 17th century prints in the Netherlands and formed an ironic commentary on both the supposed gullibility and simple nature of village people and the readines of quack doctors to take advantage of it. According to popular lore, stones in one's head was the cause of stupidity and a number of other ailments, which would be cured if the stones were surgically removed.