Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

City on the verge of a nervous breakdown

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1422 (Published 07 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1422

Schiele's contorted figures

The review of the Wellcome Collection's exhibition "Madness &
Modernity:
Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna 1900" missed a trick. The
physical
contortions of Schiele's human figures are very unlikely to merely
represent the
"grip of mental ailments". Schiele himself suffered from torticollis, a
dystonia
causing an abnormal posture of the neck (see photograph). Many of his
portraits
both of himself and others clearly demonstrate the same abnormality.
Ironically
until the latter part of the last century dystonia was widely felt to be a

psychological affliction, it is now known to be a neurological disorder,
although
its cause is still not very well understood.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

26 April 2009
Jeremy S Stern
Consultant Neurologist
St. George's Hospital, SW17 0QT