Research Article

Arthritis in Flemish paintings (1400-1700).

Br Med J 1977; 1 doi: (Published 07 May 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;1:1203
  1. J Dequeker


    A close examination of the hands of people depicted in paintings of the Flemish school showed that in five paintings there were figures with hand lesions resembling those of rhematoid arthritis. Although none of the deformities or swellings are indisputable examples of rheumatoid arthritis, they do at least suggest that the painters must have been confronted with rheumatoid-like lesions in their models. In two other paintings there were signs of rheumatic fever and of temporal arteritis. No arthritic lesions were found in the works of painters of the Italian Renaissance, probably because they are less detailed. The finding of rheumatoid deformities in the Flemish paintings does, however, question the general belief that rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that has arisen relatively recently.