Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815) introduced a system of therapy ('animal magnetism' or 'mesmerism') based on the theory that the body was analogous to a magnet. At first in Vienna (1768–1778) and later in Paris (1778–1784) he turned the theory into practice by constructing a large tub (a 'baquet') from which magnetised fluids were dispensed to patients through pipes and ropes applied to diseased parts of the body. In the present painting, the man on the extreme left winds a magnetised rope around his head to cure headache. In the right background, Mesmer touches a friar with a magnetic wand. In the right foreground the woman playing a piano might be the blind musician Maria Theresia von Paradies (Paradis) (1759–1824).
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