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Acta Vulnologica 2004 June;2(1-2):27-33


language: Italian

Wounds and art

Agus G. B. 1, Agus M. F. 2

1 Cattedra di Chirurgia Vascolare Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano 2 Fondazione Teatro alla Scala, Milano


Art allows us to catalogue the knowledgeable. The same may be done for wounds in art history. Starting from the Bible and mythology, several examples of wounds and ulcers are present both under narrative and artistic representations. The primordial episode of King Hezekiah’s leg ulcer, healed by hand of the Prophet Isaiah using a fig poultice, should be remembered. Above all, in the Iliad wounds and wound dressings are “at home” and present with bas-reliefs, paintings and sculptures that remind these situations. In Christianity art, other wounds are quite common: the stigmas of St. Francis, the bubonic plague of St. Rocco and the many miracle healings where the sanctified doctors Cosma and Damian are highly testified. Beautiful images of wounds cauterization are present also in the Islamic culture, even if ulcer medical treatments and wound dressings were not allowed, so to avoid removal of liquid humours. Up to the art of the ’900, emblematic representations of wound cures were an evidence for each specific Century: the Renaissance frame of the ’400; the pity belonging to the ’600; the elegance of the ’700; the contemporary estrangement. Also cinema, the seventh art, is abundant with blood-shedding images and often scientifically unexplainable wound healings. Lastly, melodramatic art leaves to the singer’s gestures the exaltation of a wound, often mortal. The physician’s art of wound healing finds, on one hand, the great respect of Homer but, on the other, more shadows than highlights, as reminded by Petrarch’s event.

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