In the June 2013 (vol 39(1) issue) of Medical Humanities, there is a special section, edited by Prof Ludmilla Jordanova (who will be joining Durham University on 1 September 2013), on “Portraits, patients and practitioners”. In her editorial that introduces the special section, she writes:

“Medicine and portraiture are entwined in intimate and distinctive ways. Thus portraits connected with health and medicine provide promising material for the medical humanities. In order for them to fulfil that promise, a number of issues need to be addressed. The nature of portraiture and the conditions under which portraits are made are fundamental considerations. The metaphorical power of the very idea ‘portrait’, which implies a faithful rendering of specific phenomena, is particularly striking. Then it is worth setting out where medicine portraiture has been practised, by whom and in which media. Modes of visual analysis also need to be considered, including the fields, such as art history, anthropology and visual culture studies, which offer inspiration for the close analysis of images and artefacts.

Portraits are ubiquitous in medicine. The Patients’ Portraits group of companion papers in Medical Humanities indicates the richness of the materials and the value of the insights they can generate.”

The papers in the special section comprise: 

  • The ‘scientific artworks’ of Doctor Paul Richer Natasha Ruiz-Gómez

  • Portraits of John Hunter’s patients Douglas Hugh James

  • Identifying the patient in George W Lambert’s Chesham Street Keren Rosa Hammerschlag

  • Inventing the medical portrait: photography at the ‘Benevolent Asylum’ of Holloway, c. 1885-1889 Susan Sidlauskas

  • Patients rebuilt: Dr Auguste Rollier’s heliotherapeutic portraits, c.1903–1944 Tania Anne Woloshyn


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