L. C. Álvaro Neurosciences and History 2017;5(1):26-37
Type of article: ORIGINAL
L. C. Álvaro Department of Neurology, Hospital de Basurto. Bilbao, Spain. Department of Neurosciences, Universidad del País Vasco. Leoia, Spain.
Introduction. Paintings constitute a historical source that portays medical and neurological disorders. The Baroque period is especially fruitful in this respect, due to the pioneering use of faithful, veristic representation of natural models. For these reasons, this study will apply a neurological and historical perspective to that period.
Methods. We studied Baroque paintings from the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, and the catalogues from exhibitions at the Prado Museum of the work of Georges de La Tour (2016) and Ribera (Pinturas [Paintings], 1992; and Dibujos [Drawings], 2016).
Results. In the work of Georges de La Tour, evidence was found of focal dystonia and Meige syndrome (The musicians’ brawl and Hurdy-gurdy player with hat), as well as deficiency diseases (pellagra and blindness in The pea eaters, anasarca in The flea catcher). Ribera’s paintings portray spastic hemiparesis in The clubfoot, and a complex endocrine disorder in the powerfully human Magdalena Ventura with her husband and son. His drawings depict physical and emotional pain; grotesque deformities; allegorical figures with facial deformities representing moral values; and drawings of documentary interest for health researchers. Finally, Juan Bautista Maíno’s depiction of Saint Agabus shows cervical dystonia, reinforcing the compassionate appearance of the monk.
Conclusions. The naturalism that can be seen in Baroque painting has enabled us to identify a range of medical and neurological disorders in the images analysed. The moralising use of these conditions allows us to draw historical conclusions from the images. A broader neurohistorical review of this period of art history would be worthwhile.
Painting and neurology, art and medicine, Meige syndrome, pellagra, Baroque painting
Neurosciences and History 2017;5(1):26-37
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