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Smallpox was once a common epidemic disease that killed, blinded or disfigured its victims. In the eighteenth century its impact was reduced in Europe by a Chinese practice called variolation, the injection of smallpox fluid from an infected human being into a healthy human. In 1798 Edward Jenner proposed a modification of variolation called vaccination, which involved the injection of fluid from an infected cow into human beings. This painting, produced in France in about 1807, shows a family being vaccinated. The children are very scared of the new procedure, while the adults seem to be happy about it. Vaccination was at first not entirely accepted. It had been introduced from England to France in 1801, in a period in which the two countries were generally at war, so fear of poisoning by foreign agents could have been in some people's minds at the time.
oil on canvas
H 44.5 x W 58 cm