Synopsis: Art is as timeless as it is wordless. In this it differs from medical science, which is uniquely of and for its time, and which has always required a literal articulation to be fully understood. Perhaps these very differences explain why two such seemingly disparate fields should naturally complement each other. As Medicine: The Art of Healing beautifully demonstrates, art and medicine belong together. The forty eight splendid colorplates in this book illustrate how the progress of medicine has been recorded in art, with works from illuminated manuscripts and tapestries of the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, anatomical drawings from the Renaissance, satirical drawings of the great eighteenth- and nineteenth-century caricaturists, and much, much more. Masterpieces by great artists, such a Raphael, Poussin, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Hogarth, Goya, Daumier, and Munch, are amply represented. But also, vitally important medical art by ancient and unknown hands has been deservedly featured. The result is a volume as visually varied as it is fascinating. Each of the superb color reproductions is accompanied by an enlightening commentary by the medical historian Sherwin B. Nuland. The historical, scientific, and social significance of the medical breakthroughs and procedures, along with the personalities of both physicians and artists, are vividly described in the test, which always serves to relate the healing art to the visual arts, and vice versa. (from the inside cover of the book)
Review: Being that I have an interest in art, history, and medicine, I was delighted to find this book in thrift store for mere pennies. Nuland is widely known for his writing on the social and historical aspects of medicine, and here he applies that expertise to the depiction of medicine in art throughout history. Carefully chosen art is accompanied by short text that explain the artist, the time, the medical procedure, and the doctors.
I found the text disappointingly short, wanting more science and medicine, and even, about how the picture was received. But Nuland errs on the side of brevity and we are given only snippets of tantalizing explanations of the picture. Several are familiar (i.e. Vesalius’ Muscle-Man) but others are ones I have never encountered before and found interesting.
For anyone interested in medicine, art, and the place they meet, this is a must read. Not worth the suggested price of $35, to be sure, but for a few dollars, this entertaining volume would make a fine addition to any artist’s or physician’s bookshelf.
Year Published: 1992
Date Finished: 12-26-2016