Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Sally Metzler

  • A treatment for “circular insanity”: Joseph Roth’s Radetzky March

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Madness and decay of society permeate Joseph Roth’s brooding novel The Radetsky March (1932). One character, Herr von Taussig, experiences attacks of “circular insanity.”1 The recommended cure is an institution on Lake Constance, where Von Taussig receives treatment by “mundane and feather-brained physicians who prescribe ‘spiritual emotions,’ just as frivolously…

  • Illness or intoxication? Diagnosing a French clown 

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, USA 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 of Senlis, his parents moved to Paris when he was a child so he could study art. He attended…

  • Pietro Longhi: appearances are deceiving

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Pietro Longhi’s depictions of Venetian society delight the eye by his detailed renderings of elegant satin dresses, demure shoes, and fashionable wigs. But appearances can be deceiving. Though he lavishes attention on the attractive façade of his subjects, he is equally concerned with their actions. He invites the viewer into…

  • Henrik Ibsen’s diagnosis of the conscience

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the protagonist in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, An Enemy of the People, thought he had finally landed the ideal position as physician for an idyllic Norwegian resort town. He was well-paid and well-connected; his brother was even the mayor. Life and livelihood centered on the public baths…

  • Death by Dysentery? Artist Frank Russell Wadsworth in Madrid

    Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, United States   Frank Russell Wadsworth (1874-1905) A River Lavadero, 1905, Oil on canvas, Union League Club Chicago Though he basked in the Spanish sun, the summer warmth would be his downfall, indeed his early death. Artist Frank Russell Wadsworth of Chicago gravitated towards the vivid colors and picturesque river banks…

  • Portraits of vision: Sir Joshua Reynolds

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States The subject of this portrait wears wiry, diminutive round spectacles, lending a distinctly pedantic flair. Yet gazing out is none other than Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), one of the greatest English painters in history (fig. 1). Sir Joshua headed the Royal Academy of Painters for twenty-four years, and wielded enormous…

  • The Holy Infirmary of the Knights of St. John in Malta

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States On a small island near Sicily, where today one hears the rich Maltese language—a mixed tongue of Italian, Arabic, English, and even French—a hospital was established in 1574 by the Knights of St. John. These aristocratic, militaristic, and religious men were also known as the Hospitalers, in part for their…

  • Does art belong in a doctor’s office?

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Does art belong in a doctor’s office? According to Sinclair Lewis, a resounding Yes!—so long as the art hangs on antiseptic white walls. In his 1925 novel Arrowsmith, Lewis described the ideal medical reception room—a combination of two warring schools of thought, the Tapestry and the Antiseptic. His father was…

  • Gertrude Abercrombie: surrealist predilection and pancreatic affliction

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Chronic pancreatitis, longstanding inflammation of the pancreas, is most commonly caused by an excessive intake of alcohol.1 This was the case of Gertrude Abercrombie, who painted this cryptic, pseudo-surrealistic painting, Letter to Karl. Though born in the United States, early on she lived abroad, when her opera singer parents moved…

  • Dr. Pozzi at home: Gynecologist, soldier, socialite

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois Blessed with professional success and movie-star looks, Dr. Pozzi stands before us appearing regal in his red velvet dressing gown.  He was so admired for his sartorial élan that colleagues nicknamed him “The Siren.” The artist of this masterful portrait, legendary American expatriate John Singer Sargent, presents Pozzi devoid of any professional…