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Cutting for the Stone

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  • janet couloute asked

    Thank you for your recent response to my original question. In it you mention two other versions of 'Het snijden van de kei'. Assuming they are in your museum can you tell me how I might access them.

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hello Janet, if you go to the online databases of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD) you can find the other works with the same theme. Here you have the links: https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/images/record?query=francois+verwilt&start=15 and https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/images/record?query=francois+verwilt&start=36. Here you can also find the provenance of the artworks because we don't have them in our collection. Greetings, Sarie

  • janet couloute asked

    I am a Phd student based in the UK. I have a particular interest in Het Snijden van de kei imagery and wondered what your thoughts were on the unusual inclusion of a black male assistant?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Janet,
    Thank you for your question. A black male assistant is indeed a unique element within the common theme of ‘the cutting for the stone’. The Dutch saying that someone ‘has a stone in the head’ meant that he was either crazy or stupid. And ‘to remove a stone’ was an expression that meant robbing or fooling someone. So the doctor performing this act was clear to be a fraud and the patient a fool. The physician in Verwilt’s painting is recognizable as a charlatan by his outlandish and theatrical costume and the fake credentials on the sheet of paper on the wall saying “Ick, Meester [van de] waen” (I, Master Bluff).

    Please note that the topic has not been discussed in literature yet and more research is necessary to correctly interpret the appearance of the black man in this painting. Nevertheless we can speculate that the black man might be yet another clue exposing the physician as an imposter. Seen that there weren’t many black people living in The Netherlands in the 17th century, a black man was considered outlandish and unusual, as were the turban and the huge pearl earring he is wearing. Being part of the physicians professional entourage, the black assistant might have accentuated the quaint, hence fake, appearance of the physician. Gerard Dou’s ‘The quacksalver’ (1642) also seems to use elements in the physician’s entourage referring to foreign countries to prove him a fraud, like a monkey and a parasol.

    In two other versions that Verwilt painted of this same theme he does not include a black man. Rembrandt does include a white male assistant with a turban and pearl earring in his ‘Stone Operation (Allegory of Touch)’ (1624-25) from the Leiden Collection.


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More information


Title Cutting for the Stone
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 48.8 cm
Width 37 cm
Artists Toegeschreven aan: François Verwilt
Vroegere toeschrijving: Jan de Braij
Vroegere toeschrijving: Frans Hals (II)
Accession number 1087 (OK)
Credits Schenking / Donation: weduwe P.J. van Wageninge 1874
Department Old Masters
Acquisition date 1874
Age artist Between 32 and 42 years old
External exhibitions De verbeelding van de Nederlandse spreekwoorden (2006)
Research Alma
Geographical origin Northern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

All about the artist

François Verwilt

Rotterdam circa 1623 - Rotterdam 1691

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