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The pharmacy at St John's Hospital, Philippe Van Bree

19th century

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This was what the hospital pharmacy looked like in the early 19th century. There’s hardly any difference with today’s pharmacies. The only thing which we don’t have nowadays are nuns acting as pharmacists. Van Bree paints them in action. They are grinding herbs with a big masher in a copper mortar, sorting herbs, and making medicines on the long prescription table. The domestic aspect of the scene is reinforced by the dozing cat at the bottom left. Behind the prescription table stands sister Francisca Van Becelaere with a spoon in her hand. Her nephew donated this painting to the museum.