Italy TravelSeeing Too Much Art In Italy Can Give You Stendhal Syndrome

Seeing Too Much Art In Italy Can Give You Stendhal Syndrome
Published on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 by

piero-francesca-urbinoSixty percent of the world’s art treasures can be found in Italy. That’s a staggering amount of painting, frescoes, sculptures and artifacts. Its no wonder that when visiting Italy, travelers want to try to see it all, even though that is impossible.  Plus there’s the risk of Stendhal syndrome. What is that you ask?

According to Wikipedia, “Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations  when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place.”

The syndrome was named for 19th-century French artist Stendhal who was overcome with symptoms while viewing art in Florence in 1817. Similar incidents throughout the years were reported at Florence’s Uffizi Museum. Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini documented more than 100 cases of Stendhal syndrome and officially named it in 1979.

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Photo: Portraits of the Dukes of Urbino by Piero della Francesca

One Response
    • Ahhhh…so that WAS you standing next to me in the Raphael Rooms! Although I may be only a carrier rather than a full-blown victim of Stendhal Syndrome, I freely confess to some of the symptoms. And while I am hardly erudite enough to dispute Dr. Magherini’s work, I do take exception with her notion that this blissful phenomenon is a disorder at all.
      Perhaps the “lacrimal-vastus lateralis” anomaly would be a more valid descriptor? In laymen’s terms, this is the widely held belief that in many women, the tear ducts are directly connected to the thigh saddlebags which contain a large reservoir of tears, thus providing an endless supply of tears at moments of stunning beauty. (Thank you for the tissue.)
      There is, too, the possibility that the overwhelming symptoms described could be attributed to what is commonly called “holiday heart”—a term coined to describe the cardiac dysrhythmias associated with a wee bit of excess of alcohol intake! (And if that was you next to me at dinner, I am sorry for the red wine stain on your lovely dress. Please send me the dry cleaning bill.) While this phenomenon is described world-wide, I think that Tuscany is most likely overrepresented on the pie chart.
      So whether the nearly overwhelming urge to weep, clutch one’s throat and drop unceremoniously to one’s knees when seeing Italy’s treasures is a disorder or a blissful state, I cannot say. But please order me a medi-alert bracelet and some knee pads, because I will be back!

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