Representations of rheumatic disease in art provide insight into artistic expression, help us understand the evolution and perhaps the etiology of rheumatic diseases, and remind us of great contributions by artists in adverse circumstances. We noted hand deformities characteristic of inflammatory arthritis in Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's Gipsy Girl With Mandolin (1870 to 1875), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Corot suffered with what probably was gout beginning in 1866. We are unaware that arthritis has been observed in Corot's subjects or that Corot's depiction of arthritis has been appreciated from the perspective of his own rheumatic disease. Examination of other Corot portraits identifies some with blurred hand details consistent with the artist's style and the remainder with normal hands. These observations suggest that the artist portrayed specific anatomic abnormalities in the "Gipsy Girl's" hand, indicating familiarity with inflammatory arthritis. It is speculative whether this was Corot's own or the model's arthritis; we favor the interpretation that Corot's gout was reflected in this particular work. We thus add a new perspective to Corot's Gipsy Girl With Mandolin—a subject with arthritis, a painter knowledgeable about arthritis, and a painting that therefore might be understood at least in part from an appreciation of the artist's specific illness.
Panush RB, Caldwell JR, Panush RS. Corot's 'Gout' and a 'Gipsy' Girl. JAMA. 1990;264(9):1136–1138. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450090072028
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