Historical figures aren’t the only ones subjected to mystery diagnosis in the modern age. At the National Gallery in London, Professor Michael Baum organizes gallery rounds where he and his students analyze works of art through a clinician’s lens.
“The official guide explanation that accompanies A Satyr Mourning over a Nymph indicates that it shows a woman who has been killed after being struck accidentally by a spear,” says Baum. “This is consistent with the story of Procris and Cephalus. However, there are all sorts of clues that show this interpretation to be wrong.
There are other clues, adds Baum. The woman’s left hand is bent backwards, in a position known by surgeons as “the waiter’s tip”, typical someone who has received a serious injury at points C3 and C4 on the cervical cord. The severing at these points causes nerve damage that makes the wrist flex and the fingers curl up in the manner of a waiter taking a backhanded tip.”
“Look at her hands, for example. Both are covered with deep lacerations. There is only one way she could have got those. She has been trying to fend off an attacker who has come at her, slashing in a frenzied manner with a knife or possibly a sword. Certainly there is no way that a spear could have done that.”
So which other paintings might be enhanced with a clinical eye? Try The Scream, suffering from depersonalization disorder.
Image The Scream, Edvard Munch