Can you believe this lovely figure of a woman is actually a medical instrument?
A Doctor’s Lady was traditionally used by Chinese male physicians so their female patients could protect their modesty. A patient would indicate the location of her distress by comparing it to the relevant area on the figure. That way, she wouldn’t have to undress or refer to her own body.
Rick Sutton of Jack Sutton Co. in New Orleans – an antique shop I like on Royal Street – found me this rare one which is hand carved from elephant ivory tusk. The ladies are also made from materials like resin, semi-precious stone or soapstone. Her feet are bound, in the style of the time and she is also wearing a bracelet. Like most of these ladies, she’s about 10 inches long and she lays on a base in the form of a couch.
Although the earliest use dates back to the Ming Dynasty in the 1300s, they were still being used – unbelievably – up until about 100 years ago. Rick told me that back then the doctor would have likely used a wooden carved stick with an ivory hand, positioned as if it was pointing on the end. That way the doctor wouldn’t have any physical contact with the figure, taking the modesty one degree further. Sadly, those pointers are even more rare.
Although these ladies are highly collected among physicians, I was completely fascinated by it as a symbol of women and our evolution across cultures. In just 100 years, look at how far we’ve come.
For more information:Jack Sutton Co Inc (504) 581-3666 501 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70130