Attributed to Friedrich Gauermann (1807-1862) Study of a Tree. Oil on paper, 34.5 x 28 cm.
Joos van Cleve, Lucretia, c. 1525, oil on panel. The De Young Museum of Art, San Francisco
Edvard Munch - Inheritance, oil on canvas, 1897-1898
Munch began this shocking work after visiting the Parisian Hôpital Saint-Louis in the company of a doctor, probably Marcel Rèja with whom he was friend at the time. Although the experience of having viewed the scene he painted would probably have been sufficient to yield the end result, there are some other factors that should be considered. The Hôpital Saint-Louis, one of three Parisian hospitals at the time that accepted syphilitic cases, contained a notable pathological museum of colored moulages of body parts exhibiting various skin diseases. One such piece was a wax model of an infant with congenital syphilis. Also the increased emphasis on the mother’s hands and the blotchy layers of her skirt echo in visual terms what the artist could well have seen on graphic display in the collection of Saint-Louis. Munch’s choice of details, including the colors, underlines the figures’ pathological physiology: the crying mother with her black and flatly painted jacket that de-emphasizes her nourishing function, her “red mask of syphilis”, her contorted face, swollen lips, bloated crimson chin, reddish purplish nose and the pallid yellow body of the infant. The bright red plume on the mother’s hat accentuates the acuteness of both disease and emotional trauma. The focus of the painting is the ghastly body of an infant who has inherited syphilis from his mother, either a woman infected by a philandering husband, or, perhaps more likely, herself a prostitute.
Auguste Toulmouche, A Garden Stroll (detail), 1877.
Simon Alexandre-Clément Denis, Study of Clouds with a Sunset near Rome (detail), ca. 1786-1801 (x)