Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis Christmas 2008: Food and Drink

Fantastic feeding funnels

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 16 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2888
  1. M P Park, lecturer in history of art1,
  2. R H R Park, consultant gastroenterologist2
  1. 1Department of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G3 6NH
  2. 2Southern General Hospital, Glasgow
  1. Correspondence to: M P Park mpark{at}

    Eating is a common theme in art but few images depict artificial nutrition, say Maureen and Richard Park

    As the festive season gets underway, many will turn their attention to the fine art of eating. In December 2007 a poll estimated that on Christmas Day the British public would each gorge themselves on 6000 kcal (25.10 MJ) of culinary delights.1 The term “gavage,” from the French “to gorge,” is used to describe the force feeding of ducks and geese for the production of pâté de foie gras using funnels. For many centuries funnels have also been utilised for the force feeding of prisoners and psychiatric patients. Similar devices have been used to provide artificial feeding for patients who, severely troubled by anorexia and nausea, may well have considered their treatment as a form of force-feeding. Although the act of eating is a common theme in art, few images of artificial nutrition exist, and in particular the use of feeding funnels.

    Frida Kahlo (1907-54)

    One person who experienced the distress of requiring assistance with feeding was the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Now acknowledged as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Kahlo used her paintings as a means of expressing the physical and emotional torment she experienced during her life. The centenary celebrations marking her birth came to a close at the end of September 2008, with a major exhibition of her paintings that had toured to Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. On display was a remarkable image of a feeding funnel, in Without Hope (fig 1).

    Fig 1 Frida Kahlo: Without Hope, 1945 (oil on masonite) Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino, Mexico City

    Kahlo experienced ill health for most of her life. Even before being involved in a bus crash in 1925 at the age of 18, …

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