A Large 19thC Double Sided Cast Iron French Sign Written Trade Sign; ‘Ch.en Dentiste’; c.1890

Origin: French
Period: 3rd Republic
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1890
Height: 47”
Width: 33”
Depth: 0.5” (all at extremities)

The hand cut and riveted double-sided cast iron and sheet metal dentists trade sign of rectangular form, showing an outstanding patina to both sides bearing the original red and yellow paint to a black ground, reading ‘Ch.en. Dentiste’ (Chirurgien Dentiste/Dental Surgeon) to both sides in three-dimensional script surrounded by decorative sprays, the top with a scrolled iron work finial, the whole surviving from the last quarter of nineteenth century France.

The piece is in sound overall complete order and is undeniably very decorative with a highly texturised surface, one side a shade more than the other. The piece doesn’t show any evidence of repairs or particular damage other than to the surface. The hanging fittings are in good order and show no signs of any damage. There is rusting to the whole in sporadic areas as one would expect.

For most of the 19th century, dentistry was a back-street horror show in Europe until the Dentists Act was passed in 1878 - which limited the title of ‘dentist’ and ‘dental surgeon’ to registered practitioners. Just like today, tooth decay was an unpleasant part of life, but for the most of 1800s and early 1900s, extraction was the only treatment available.  Most people who found themselves with toothache ended up in the hands of their local barber or blacksmith, who doubled as a surgeon.  These amateur ‘surgeons’ would use pliers or forceps to extract the rotten tooth - without any anaesthetic to ease the agonising pain. In 1873, Colgate mass-produced the first toothpaste in a jar, and, just a few years later, in 1885 the first tooth brush was mass produced in America by H.N. Wadsworth.

A large, rare and hugely decorative piece of folk art in totally original condition.