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Unpleasant Art: Diseases and Death in 19th-20th Century Paintings

Art does not always appeal to the beautiful and beautiful, sometimes from the depicted on the canvases it takes a rash because of the plots chosen by the author. For example, the British Wellcome Collection Museum deliberately collects various paintings that depict diseases, surgeries and other unpleasant things for the eye.

The first use of ether in dentistry, 1846. Posted by: Ernest Board.

“In the last twentieth century, mankind has managed to achieve the impossible and overcome hunger, epidemics and war. Now, for the first time in history, fewer people are dying of hunger from obesity. Diseases take less lives than old age. Violent deaths are less common than in accidents. These amazing achievements must be kept in mind when confronted with the ordeals of the 21st century, ”said the historian Yuval Noah Harari in his speech in Berlin.

Church Minister’s Dream: Doctors perform the patient’s miraculous healing by replanting a new leg. Author unknown.

For a person in the past, life was full of mysteries and magic. People did not understand why illnesses occur and how to get rid of them. They often turned to God or saints for help, and they also thanked them for miraculous healing. So, for example, in one of the paintings you can see a woman who thanks the heavens for “miraculous healing from madness” after the “devil was expelled” from her.

The woman thanks Madonna Del Parto for healing from madness after the procedure of expelling the devil. Author unknown.

Considering the human body to be divine, and any intervention – diabolical, surgery for quite some time remained at a very primitive level. Prayers, flogging, pouring holy water, humility, hunger – this is how many health problems were solved. And if it was not possible to help the problem, well, apparently, the spirit of man was weak and the devil won.

The cripple is poured over with icy holy water in the hope of miraculous healing. Russia, 1903

Now that humanity is no longer confronted with such terrible epidemics that our ancestors inherited, similar paintings that were created by Edward Matthew Ward (1816–1879) and Richard Tattant Cooper (1885–1957) no longer create . In Ward’s paintings you can see people encountering the bubonic plague; the heroes of Cooper’s canvases are attacked by plague, diphtheria, and syphilis. In those days, each of these diseases inevitably brought death.

A ghostly skeleton depicting diphtheria is trying to strangle a sick child. Posted by: Richard Tennant Cooper.

Naked woman looks in the back of a man. The skeleton in a cloak in the corner of the picture represents syphilis. Posted by: Richard Tennant Cooper.

Naked woman looks in the back of a man. The skeleton in a cloak in the corner of the picture represents syphilis. Posted by: Richard Tennant Cooper.

We know about medicine the century before last from many sources, and not one of them makes us envious of people who happened to encounter it then. Without anesthesia, in non-sterile conditions, any manipulations of that time with the human body were, in fact, no less life-threatening than the diseases themselves. So, in one of the paintings you can see the operation process on the eye with the help of completely creepy tools, laid out directly on the floor. And tooth extraction by ticks does not resemble medicine at all.

On the other hand, until recently, the services of a doctor were by no means the right of every person, but a privilege available only to units. The vast majority of people suffered and died at home, simply not having the opportunity to get to the doctor or pay him. For the same reason, infant mortality was high, due to which women were forced to give birth to children one by one, hoping.

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