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Sir Theodore de Mayerne (1573–1655)

Photo credit: Royal College of Physicians, London

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Theodore de Mayerne (1573–1655) was a successful and famous physician, serving in the royal courts of Europe. He is remembered most for advocating the use of chemical remedies in medical practice. He had a colourful personality and, despite living in England for 44 years, refused to own land and only spoke the language if necessary, staying true to his French-Swiss heritage. In his last years he became immobile through obesity, but was unconcerned, maintaining that ‘an evil soul never dwells in a fat body’. He was said to have died after drinking bad wine at a tavern in the Strand, London.

A skull is a common attribute in early portraits as a memento mori, a reminder of mortality, but in this case it could also be an allusion to Mayerne’s own developments in skull surgery.

Royal College of Physicians, London



Sir Theodore de Mayerne (1573–1655)


17th C


oil on canvas


H 127 x W 90.1 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from Sir Theodore Colladon, 1689

Work type



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Normally on display at

Royal College of Physicians, London

11 St Andrew's Place, Regent's Park, London, Greater London NW1 4LE England

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