Historic Painting: “A Clinical Lesson at the Salpêtrière” by Brouillet, 1887.


This dramatic and fascinating painting is famous not so much for its artist and what it depicts, but where it’s been displayed, and by whom. A Clinical Lesson at the Salpêtrière was painted in 1887 by André Brouillet, a scene painter who was a student of Jean-Léon Gérôme–one of my favorite artists and whose work has appeared on this blog before, most notably here (though also here as well). The Salpêtrière was a famous research hospital in Paris in the late 19th century. In the scene a number of famous doctors of the time, including neurology pioneer Jean-Martin Charcot, are examining a woman suffering from “hysteria”–a catch-all psychological diagnosis of the time, which is in fact a highly gendered and pejorative term which was used to describe behavior thought endemic to women. All of the doctors and even the nurses depicted here were real people who were active in the Paris medical…

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