This essay interprets and analyses the painting called “Dioscorides
describing the mandrake”, which is currently located in a
permanent exhibition at Wellcome Collection in London, UK.
The painting features Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek botanist
and pharmacologist who practiced in the Roman Empire during
the rule of Nero. Dioscorides is known for his influential De
Materia Medica, a five-volume book on medicinal uses of various
plants and herbs. What makes this script special and influential
is that it included a vast amount of herbs, detailed descriptions,
scientific observations, as well as a scientific classification and
order. Upon reflection on this piece of art, I am reminded of the
medical realm that we are gradually becoming a part of as medical
students. There is immense passion, knowledge and intelligence
in how medicine became modern medicine today. For me, the
painting on Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica is a compelling visual
representation of centuries – long endeavor.