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Book and Media Reviews
April 27, 2011

Medicine in Art

JAMA. 2011;305(16):1714. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.519

Medicine in Art is a visual delight. It serves as a history of medicine as well as a history of art as it relates to sickness, death, and healing. Translated from the original Italian and part of the Imagery in Art series published by the Getty Museum, it uses an accessible format to present and discuss a wide range of art, primarily painting but also drawing, sculpture, and photography.

Sometimes the medical aspect is very much to the fore. For example, there is little doubt about the central focus of Jan Sander van Hemessen's The Surgeon (Extracting the Stone of Madness) (circa 1550): the patient is tied to a chair and an assistant holds his head steady while the spectacled surgeon cuts into the patient's forehead, revealing the offending stone. Other instances provide only a small but telling medical detail. For example, in Eduardo Rosales' John of Austria's Presentation to Emperor Charles V at Yuste (1869), Charles receives his illegitimate son at court as the boy is ushered in by his guardian Don Luis—a formal 16th-century scene, except that Charles sits with his gouty, swollen right foot supported on a cushion.

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