Mesmer place Vendôme: the charlatan's tubs and trances

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Mesmerized patients, painting by C.-L. Desrais (1784) - ©Wellcome Library, London / CC-BY Mesmerized patients, painting by C.-L. Desrais (1784) - ©Wellcome Library, London / CC-BY
Place Vendôme Street District

Fluid and escape in Paris

At number 16 place Vendôme, look! Here’s the Serres town house. The famous Mesmer settled here in 1778! The doctor renowned for his magnetic tubs: the Parisian smart set were mad about them! He studied medicine in Germany, his native country.

But one day, he discovered works written by a Jesuit father about animal magnetism. Animal what?? Healing with a specific fluid... Mesmer had a revelation!

He founded his own clinic at the age of 40, in Vienna in 1773, where he cured sick persons with metallic fluids. But some of his patients state get worse and complaints were filed, so Mesmer had to run away... in Paris!

The sessions

In Paris, he settled place Vendôme. Sick persons and people eager for weird things rushed to see him. In the town house’s main room, Mesmer put a big wooden tub, full of water and pieces of metal.

Iron pipes come out from the tub. Mesmer took them and applied them where it hurts. Everybody clung to a rope, and the fluid could circulate. Mesmer ambled along the tubs and touched every patients with his thin stick full of the so-called fluid.

Whoa: the stage production was grandiose! And the magnetic crisis could begin: people suffocated, body shook. Tears. Groans. Husky breathings. Everybody convulsed. Like a trance! Add to this a stressful music played with piano and glass harmonica... musical glasses rub with damp hands.

The crisis room

When the crisis was too strong, Mesmer took the patient in his arms and brought him in his "crisis room": a padded place where the patient was calmed down by the master... You know what? Mesmer took only women in this special room!

Well, well, well... In short. The magnetism has nothing to do with medicine, so Mesmer was condemned to exile; one more time. He died in Switzerland, in 1815. Well, the chap had time to make money...


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