Detail of 'Apothecary Bottles'. Photograph by Rosamond
Purcell, © 2000. Click
for a larger, full image.
These bottles represent
only a few of those in the collection of medicines and poisons from
the medical institute museum of Facultad de Medicina, in Valladolid,
Spain. As the photographer, I made a selection of the most poisonous
looking and sounding drugsselecting them either for their
brilliant color or by namearsenic, cyanide, and cochineal,
the red dye made from insects.
Many of these substances
were used in homeopathicor not so homeopathicamounts
as standard ingredients in European medicines. They certainly were
not viewed by every other culture as the way to cure diseases. The
Dutch naturalist Georgius Everhardi Rumphius (1628-1702),
who was an expert on the history, lore, and medicinal effects of
tropical plants, noted that many tropical remedies were more effective
in curing disease than European cures which, he suspected, often
did more harm than good.
the Artist Rosamond Wolff Purcell is an internationally renowned
photographer, artist, and author. Her work has appeared worldwide
in many solo museum exhibitions. She has also been featured in articles
in science and humanities publications, including the Atlantic,
Smithsonian, and Harvard Magazine, and is a contributing editor
to The Sciences, a bimonthly magazine published by the New York
Academy of Sciences.
Purcell has published her photographs in eight books, including
collaborations with Stephen Jay Gould for Finders
Keepers: Eight Collectors, and Illuminations: A Bestiary,
which won the American Institute for Graphic Design Book Award.
She is the author of Special Cases: Natural
Anomalies and Historical Monsters (now available in our online
store!, published in 1997 by Chronicle Books. The book is based
on an exhibition that Purcell created for the Getty Center in 1994.
Her most recent book is Swift as a Shadow:
Extinct and Endangered Animals.