Available via the Patreon of @Morbidanatomy - My St Valentine's Day Lecture - bring your Valentine!
Updated: Mar 9
The Price of Love: A St Valentine's Guide to Syphilis, Eros, Genius and Mercury, A Live Online Talk by Medical and Anatomical Expressionist Artist Eleanor Crook
This talk was on Monday, February 14, 2022
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(Image: Syphilis (1900), Richard Tennant Cooper) On this Valentine's day, sculptor and medical artist Eleanor Crook invites you to consider what would you risk for love - and what it meant, before the invention of penicillin, to lose everything you had - reputation, sanity and large chunks of your skin cartilage and nervous system - in the pursuit of carnal communion? From its mysterious migration across the Atlantic in the Renaissance period to the invention of (at last!) viable treatment in the 1940s, the eerie, disfiguring and tormenting bacterium that causes Syphilis was the secret shame and terror of millions, respecting neither status nor virtue, appearing as a sudden plague and later becoming entrenched in the population as an endemic venereal disease which partied in the human body with dramatic, visible and terrifying creativity. Not content with ravaging skin and flesh, it sculpted and burrowed inside the brain to ruin or intensify the lives of generations. Eleanor admires its creativity as she charts its voyage to Europe, its changing pathologies across the centuries and offers some curious evidence for its influence on art, expression and even philosophy during its majestic reign in the cities of the 19th century. This richly and luridly illustrated lecture tells the story of the sufferers who traded a night with Venus for a lifetime with Mercury chemotherapy (later arsenic, bismuth, potassium iodide ) from first hand descriptions, medical reports, the documentary work of medical illustrators and the artistic interpretations of poets and writers of the period including Charles Baudelaire, Alphonse Daudet, Edvard Munch, Friedrich Nietzche. We will savour notions of sin and corruption, shudder at misguided medical interventions, gasp at decadence and degeneracy, before asking the big question: was Syphilis out to destroy us, or did it want to entwine inside us and collaborate?