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A Review of Syphilis Through Historical Art and Fashion for Teaching
Purpose: A review of early modern era paintings depicting
characteristic signs of syphilis and its influence on fashion for potential use
in an innovative teaching curriculum.
Background: The rate of syphilis in all US women doubled from 2012
to 2018 with a concomitant tripling of congenital syphilis cases. This dramatic
resurgence reinforces the importance of clinically identifying signs of
syphilis for educating healthcare providers. Visual aids and art analysis have
been shown to be effective teaching tools.
Methods: Early modern era paintings depicting different stages
of syphilis and fashion that was popularized in response to its physical
manifestations were identified and analyzed through literature review.
Results: Paintings reviewed:
1) Portrait of Gerard de
Lairesse, Rembrandt van Rijn. Sequelae of late congenital syphilis.
2) The medical inspection,
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Sex workers examined for the painless chancre of the
3) The Inheritance, Edvard
Munch. Mother and child with early congenital syphilis.
4) Henry III of France, Jean
de Court. Gummas, head and neck lesions of the tertiary stage, were often
concealed by a ruff collar.
5) Portrait of Charles II of
England, Godfrey Kneller. Patchy alopecia often hidden by periwigs.
6) Portrait of two men with
gloves, Cornelis de Vos. Palmar maculopapular rash prompted glove use to
Discussions: Early modern era paintings featuring syphilis may be
used as visual aids to educate healthcare providers. Innovative use of artwork
in medical education may be more effective than text alone and can lead to
higher retention of clinical knowledge.
CREOG & APGO Annual Meeting, 2021, Student, Resident, Faculty, Clerkship Director, Residency Director, Patient Care, Medical Knowledge, GME, CME, UME, Assessment, Simulation, Lecture, Independent Study, Infectious Disease, General Ob-Gyn,