Exhibition label: In 1798, English physician Edward Jenner (1749-1823) published the results of his successful experiments demonstrating that infecting patients with cowpox immunized them to the far more dangerous disease of smallpox. Public opposition to the newly described vaccine followed almost immediately. Claims that the procedure was dangerous and unsanitary were joined by objections to the vaccine's bovine origins, condemning what critics saw as the revolting and sacrilegious mingling of animal matter with human flesh. As seen here, Gillray played upon these anxieties to grotesque and comic effect.-- On view at the Morgan Library & Museum, Fall 2019.
Print shows a scene in a vaccine institution; poor patients crowd in through a doorway on the left; in the room are those whose treatment has had dire consequences. A comely and frightened young woman sits in an armchair in the center, Dr. Jenner holds her right arm and gashes it with his knife, while a deformed and ragged boy holds up a bucket of 'Vaccine Pock hot from ye Cow'. A charity-schoolboy's oval badge on his sleeve is inscribed 'St Pancras'; from his coat pocket projects a pamphlet: 'Benefits of the Vaccine Process'. From various other patients miniature cows sprout or leap. A pregnant woman (right) stands in profile to the right, a cow issues from her mouth, another from below her ragged petticoat. A man dressed as a butcher registers despair at the horns which sprout from his forehead. A labourer with a pitchfork sees a cow bursting from a swelling on his arm while another breaks through his breeches; cows struggle through huge swellings on nose, ear, and cheek. The doctor's medicine-chest stands on the left, with bottles, a syringe, &c, and a tub of 'Opening Mixture' which haughty assistant ladles contemptuously into the mouths of the patients as they crowd into the room. On the wall is a picture of a crowd worshipping the statue of the golden calf.