Art Flashes – Hektoen International

A man with a psychotic disorder by Diego Velazquez

Fernando Espí Forcén Chicago, Illinois, USA   Jester named Don Juan de Austria by Diego Velazquez El Prado Museum, Madrid Source: wikimedia commons During the modern era, kings employed jesters for the entertainment of monarchs and their guests. These jesters were often people with mental illnesses or congenital metabolic diseases. They were payed for their […]

Child’s play and art

Bojana Cokíc Zajecar, Serbia   Childhood is an important time of learning and development. Play is the work of childhood, affecting sensorimotor, cognitive, emotional, moral, and social development.1 Children have always played.3 Throughout history, children’s games have changed with the social environment. In past centuries, children’s play began in the evening, on the street, after girls […]

Illness or Intoxication? Diagnosing a French clown 

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, USA Thomas Couture (1815-1879) The Illness of Pierrot, ca. 1859 The Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City MO In his day, Thomas Couture was a renowned history painter, though his students would later surpass him in fame – the likes of Edouard Manet and John Lafarge.  Born in the small French town […]

A physician examining a patient’s urine

This painting from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford shows a physician uroscopist examining a specimen of urine in order to determine what was ailing his patient. It is a serious painting, unlike that of Dutch artists such as Jan Steen who regarded uroscopists as quacks and made fun of their pretentious mien and attire. The […]

Sickness and death

The Sick Child In Death in the Sickroom These two paintings by the famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) reflect his lifelong melancholia and obsession with sickness and death. This has been attributed to his childhood experiences of his father’s drifting towards insanity, his mother’s death from tuberculosis, and the later death of two siblings […]

Los Caprichos

De que mal morira (Of what ill will he die?) This is engraving number 40 from the Los Caprichos series by Francisco de Goya, published in 1799 and showing a donkey as a doctor attending a dying man in his bed. The doctor wears a watch to count the patient’s pulse but not a stethoscope because […]

The Agnew Clinic

The Agnew Clinic (or The Clinic of Dr. Agnew) is an oil painting by American artist Thomas Eakins.  It was commissioned by the class of 1889 of the University of Pennsylvania medical students to honor the anatomist and surgeon David Hayes Agnew on his retirement from teaching. It depicts Dr. Agnew performing a partial mastectomy in a medical amphitheater. Also present are several […]

Apothecaries vs. physicians

Two paintings of pharmacies are shown here: a Medical practitioner taking a lady’s pulse in a pharmacy (Wellcome Library) by Emili Casals I Camps (1882)  and The Apothecary by Pietro Longhi, from the Accademia in Venice (1752). The man taking the woman’s pulse in the Casals painting is probably a physician, and the one looking […]

The Bride in Death

  Thomas Jones Barker Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and North East Somerset Council Thomas Jones Barker (1815 –1882) was an English painter born at Bath and educated by his father. In 1834, at age nineteen, he went to Paris to study under the French artist Horace Vernet. During his time in Paris he exhibited several historical […]

Gerrit Dou and his Netherlandish quacks

      Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), one of Rembrandt’s first students, was born thirteen years before his contemporary Jan Steen and died four years before him. Both painted similar works of contrasting light and dark, both lived most of their lives in Leiden, and both included in their work several scenes illustrating healthcare in the […]