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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Shanghaiceltic BS: David Syndrome (32) BS: David Syndrome 13 Nov 05

I had to smile when I saw this article having been to Florence in Ocotber and seeing David in the flesh as it were.

I think there is a more simple explanation. Having queued for nearly 3 hours anyone would be set to feint, throw a fit and fowm at the mouth.

I liked Brian Sewell's comment at the end.

Now culture shock has an official name: David Syndrome
By Nick Pisa in Rome and Catherine Humble
(Filed: 13/11/2005)

Most visitors to Italy's cultural sights feel the pleasure that can come from looking at some of the world's most beautiful buildings and paintings.

Yet for some the thrill is so intense that they suffer sweating, shaking and fainting spells - and need hospital treatment to recover.

Dizzy spell: Michelangelo's David on show in Florence
According to medical staff at Florence's Santa Maria Nuova hospital more than 100 people have been admitted over the past four years suffering from dizziness and disorientation after admiring the masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery and other sights in the city.

Now an Italian psychiatrist is embarking on a detailed study of visitors to Michelangelo's David, regarded as the world's most beautiful statue, to measure their symptoms and assess its impact on their physical and mental well-being.

Graziella Magherini has begun a year-long study into the "emotional impact" of admiring the recently restored 500-year-old Renaissance masterpiece, which is viewed by almost a million people a year. Visitors will be asked to record their feelings as they gaze upon David.

Psychiatrists have long debated the existence of what is known as Stendhal Syndrome, a psychosomatic condition that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an "overdose" of beautiful art.

It is named after Stendhal, the pen name of 19th-century author Marie-Henrie Beyle, who gave an early detailed description of the phenomenon on a visit to Florence.

Prof Magherini said: "I believe a unique type of visitor establishes a direct bond with the statue that I call the David Syndrome. I'm convinced that admiring the statue causes mind-bending symptoms. It affects those who are creative and sensitive and those travelling on their own or in couples."

Doctors at Santa Maria Nuova say they regularly admit tourists suffering "mental imbalances" after taking in Florence's culture. One danger spot is the Uffizi, which contains Botticelli's The Birth of Venus and Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi.

Dr Paolo Rossi Prodi, the director of psychiatry at the hospital, said: "The patients are usually Europeans or Americans, overwhelmed by the cultural shock of arriving in Florence.

" One theory is the viewing of so much culture and art brings on a sense of anguish and insecurity, something that the patient is not used to. We have to treat them with anti-depressants."

Italians were immune to the condition, according to Prof Magherini, along with the Japanese, who she said were so organised in their sightseeing that "they rarely have time for emotional attacks".

Stendhal recorded in 1817 how he was affected by the city's culture. "Everything spoke so vividly to my soul," he wrote. "If I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling." Henry James and Marcel Proust both wrote of being agitated by Florence.

Dr Rossi described the case of a 40-year-old Briton who collapsed in the Uffizi. "He was in a terrible state," he said. "He was thrashing about and had taken complete leave of his senses. The last thing he remembered was looking at a Caravaggio; the rest was blank."

Galleries in Britain do not suffer in the same way. "We have never heard of anything like David Syndrome happening here," said a spokesman for the Royal Academy of Arts.

Brian Sewell, the art critic, said that it was hardly surprising. "With the Sistine Chapel it is perfectly understandable that someone might fall ill," he said. "No one could possibly faint in St Paul's Cathedral. If someone did they should be sent straight to the lunatic asylum."

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