Extracting a Chigger, Brazil, 1820-24
Painted by Augustus Earle (1793-1838); original in National Library of Australia, Canberra (nla.pic-an2822660)
Water color on paper, the artist titled this drawing Extracting a jigger, scene in the Brazils. A black woman is shown extracting a chigger from the foot of a white man in what appears to be some sort of tavern; an earthenware pottery jug or jar (for water?) is in the left-hand corner. A tropical flea native to the Americas, the chigger (jigger, chigoe) was extremely troublesome to Europeans and Africans in many areas of the New World. Invading the skin through the feet or toes, they laid their eggs between the toes or under the nail, and if the egg sacs were not removed (by a simple technique); they could cause intense itching and pain. Chigger transmitted infections could result in festering sores and serious, sometimes incapacitating, lameness in the feet, and the chigger was often a pathfinder for tetanus and other infections. Earle, an English painter who travelled widely, lived in Rio from early 1820 to early 1824, with occasional trips to Chile and Peru during that period.
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