This edition, we look at a work by another 16th century Flemish painter, Jan Sanders van Hemessen.
The art book I first found this in called it “Removing Rocks from the Head.” Although subsequent Google searches reveal it to be called either “The Stonecutter” or “The Surgeon,” I think that the first version of the title is the best. Because that is what it is showing.
Apparently there was a belief that epilepsy was caused by rocks lodged in the brain, which had to be surgically removed. So here we have a guy with minimal teeth and possibly poor eyesight performing brain surgery on a conscious patient with a knife at a fair. A middle-aged lady holds the victi—I mean, patient’s head still, because that’s all you need for a procedure where you have a man getting his skull delicately split open with an animal horn. Meanwhile, the old man on the right does calisthenics to pass the time. Maybe he was the anesthesiologist, until he remembered that those didn’t exist yet.