Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Executive Deputy EditorIndividualAuthor
To the Editor: The striking cover of the August
2, 2000, issue of THE JOURNAL became even more interesting on reading Dr Southgate's
disclosure of its title, After Death, Study of a Severed
Head, and mention of the recent suggestion that the painting might
actually be of a (whole) man on his deathbed.
My vote is for the latter interpretation. The fact that the head seems
to be resting on the edge of a pillow, steeply elevated above the neck (and
body, if attached) calls to mind a natural response to the orthopnea of end-stage
heart failure. Heart failure is further suggested by the elevated cord below
the ear at the angle of the jaw, which could be a distended external jugular
vein and is not likely to be seen in a severed head.
Bateman K. The Art of Physical Diagnosis. JAMA. 2000;284(21):2721-2722. doi:10.1001/jama.284.21.2717