16 thoughts on “Yikes!

    1. Sir Alec Douglas Home

      The reference to syphilis is almost certainly incorrect, the kids in the picture are much more likely polio victims. Syphilis doesn’t result in the sort of disabilities depicted. Syphilis is mentioned on Wikipedia I see, but that refers to an article from The Graun by Jonathan Jones.

      Historically it’s a fascinating painting, polio only became a prominent public health threat beginning about a decade after this painting was made. The crippled children used as models for the painting were likely among the first numerous group of children impacted by the re-emerging virus.

      1. Emily

        It’s a matter of debate. Wiki has both polio and syphilis. Syphilis can result in children being crippled (trust me, I’m a MD) and Sorolla’s correspondence does refer to syphilitic children several times, while he doesn’t mention polio in his letters until after the painting was exhibited and the responses to it came in. The syphilitic reference (if there is one in the painting) would lend the painting an allegorical layer, the polio one wouldn’t. So, we’ll never know.

        1. Sir Alec Douglas Home

          The weight of evidence and opinion suggests that this is a painting of children suffering from polio. Reference to ‘polio’ didn’t become common until after the 1916 outbreak in the US, so it’s not surprising that Sorolla didn’t refer to it. My point was twofold. First, the reference in Wikipedia to this being a picture of children suffering from syphilis was a single source reference made by a commentator on art not science. It therefore has limited credibility. At the end of the 19th century polio was what we would now characterise as an ’emerging infectious disease’, and it was decades later that Landsteiner and Flexner did the research that paved the way for our understanding of the virus. My second point was that whatever Sorolla’s intention in making the painting was, whether or not an allegory, it nevertheless likely an image that captures the impact of the start of a disease outbreak that is still burning today(perhaps not the actual start, but the beginning of the curve).

  1. Shay Kelly

    Worshippers at the church of the perpetually offended will find ill in anything. Poor Bernie, art must be a terrible experience for her.

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