Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Raving and Melancholy Madness

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 01 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3881
  1. Mark Ellul, foundation year 1 doctor, Peterborough City Hospital, Peterborough PE3 9GZ, UK
  1. markellul{at}

These well known but grotesque figures supposedly represent the two faces of mental illness. One is reposed and quiet but vacant and disengaged; the other is full of anguish and writhing against the chains used to bind psychotic patients before the days of the chemical cosh. Raving and Melancholy Madness, sculpted by Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700), stood above the entrance to the old Bethlem Hospital from 1676 until 1815 at its site in Moorfields, London. The representations are life sized and were designed to recline over a portico and look down on visitors and staff coming in and out.

What possessed the sculptor to carve these caricatures to guard the entrance to Bedlam? Perhaps they were warning of what can happen when …

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