Indian Queens Modelling Vaccine

September 22 2020

Image of Indian Queens Modelling Vaccine

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The BBC have published an interesting piece of research regarding the above portrait by Thomas Hickey. Dr Nigel Chancellor of Cambridge University has been researching the picture ever since it was offered for sale at Sotheby's in 2007. Through his research into the sitters and the curious pose of the lady on the right, he claims the painting to been an attempt to publicise and promote a smallpox vaccine that had been introduced at the Royal Mysore Court in 1805.

As the article explains:

He identified the woman on the right in the painting as Devajammani, the younger queen. He said her sari would have typically covered her left arm, but it was left exposed so she could point to where she had been vaccinated "with a minimum loss of dignity". 

The woman on the left, he believes, is the king's first wife, also named Devajammani. The marked discoloration under her nose and around her mouth is consistent with controlled exposure to the smallpox virus, Dr Chancellor said. Pustules from patients who had recovered would be extracted, ground to dust and blown up the nose of those who had not had the disease. It was a form of inoculation known as variolation, that was meant to induce a milder infection.

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