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Arch Hellen Med, 30(4), July-August 2013, 473-479


Εpilepsy and art

T. Toli
Department of Nursing, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

The sight of a man experiencing an epileptic seizure may create various emotions in an observer, such us annoyance, aversion, fear, embarrassment, curiosity, sympathy or sadness. Because of this, through the centuries epilepsy has constituted a theme of artistic expression and references to the problem are found in the graphic arts, painting, sculpture and literature. In ancient India the demon "Apasmara" was synonymous with epilepsy. "Tlazolteotl" the goddess of fertility of the Aztecs was thought to be able to penetrate people and provoke epilepsy or even cure them. The Incas apparently recognized the disease and considered it to be a severe disease, which is why they gave it names such as "Aya huayra" (breath of death) and "Huani keshia" (ill of death). In ecclesiastical art and devotion the theme of epilepsy has appeared in sequences of wall paintings and sculptures since the 9th century A.D. Epilepsy is not a condition that has traditionally been linked with creativity, but study of the list of famous people who suffered from epilepsy shows that despite their health problems they have achieved the state of being discriminated in a positive way. Certainly the ways in which persons who suffered from epilepsy have contributed to and promoted civilization and art cannot be overlooked, whether or not they used epilepsy as a theme. In addition to the esthetic value of their work let us not forget that they have offered a different set of optics and provided valuable information to the medical world and society over the centuries. Encountering either the elegant descriptions of Dostoyevsky or the discrimination and stress in paintings, frescoes and sculptures created by artists with epilepsy, the observer appreciates that those works of art reveal their lonely route in life and at the same time the glory of their souls.

Key words: Art, Epilepsy, Literature, Sculpture.

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