C. Guijarro-Castro Neurosciences and History 2013;1(1):12-20
Type of article: ORIGINAL
C. Guijarro-Castro Institute of Biomedical Research, Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid. Department of Medicine, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Madrid, Spain.
Introduction. In 1792, at the age of 46, Goya suffered a neurological illness with symptoms including headache, vertigo, ataxia, changes in vision, and possibly motor deficit. That illness left him with permanent hearing loss. In 1819, at the age of 73, he fell seriously ill once again, but with no sequelae on that occasion. One might postulate that the change in his pictorial style, which culminated in his famous Black Paintings, could have been related to his brush with death, or to his disease and its lasting consequences.
Methods and Procedure. This article offers an analysis of the artist’s correspondence with friends and family members after 1790, and of writings and theories regarding his illness and change in artistic style. It also examines several of his Black Paintings and their symbolism.
Conclusion. Goya’s illness may best be explained by Susac’s syndrome, but we must be wary of the tendency to attribute rare diseases to exceptional people. Another compelling possibility is that he suffered from cerebral malaria, and that prolonged treatment with high doses of cinchona bark caused cinchonism (quinine poisoning) and permanent hearing loss. Goya, a genius both before and after his illness, was a painter by vocation. Analysis of relevant texts seems to indicate that his escape from death let him overcome personal inhibitions and social conventions and paint whatever he wanted. His personal experiences and his need to express the frustration of the troubled times in which he lived may have led to changes in his style and subject matter.
Goya, neurological disease, Susac’s syndrome, malaria, cinchonism, Black Paintings.
Neurosciences and History 2013;1(1):12-20
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