Monday, 28 November 2011

IMFW: Art Imitates Life?

Having written previously about Pio Pico, the last Governor of Mexican California who, it has recently been suggested, may have suffered from acromegaly caused by a growth-hormone producing pituitary adenoma, I got to thinking about this retrospective diagnosis lark, and I did a bit of reading. It turn out, doctors love arguing over whether Mozart had kidney failure or rheumatic fever, Schönlein-Henoch syndrome, trichinosis or the 'flu - and he's not the only famous composer to get the "what did he die of" treatment.

But this article takes things to another level. Professor Michael Baum takes his medical students around the National Gallery on a veritable orgy of slightly tenuous diagnoses, based solely on what they see in paintings. He and his students have suggested that The Ugly Duchess by Massys may show a woman suffering from Paget's disease of the bone, and suggested that An Allegory with Venus and Cupid by Bronzino has a hidden syphilitic message. Some of their arguments are more compelling than others, but it's an interesting article and I recommend following up the full versions of his analysis as well.

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