Scientists probe power of great art
Published 29/07/2010 | 05:00
ITALIAN scientists are to try to establish whether there really is such a phenomenon as Stendhal Syndrome -- the giddiness, sweaty state of confusion and even hallucinations that are supposedly aroused when one looks at great works of art.
The condition is named after the 19th-Century French author Stendhal, who wrote of feeling utterly overwhelmed by the Renaissance masterpieces he saw during a trip to Florence in 1817.
"As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart; the wellspring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground," Stendhal recorded in his book 'Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio'.
Nearly two centuries on, researchers will use hi-tech recording instruments to measure visitors' reactions as they survey the treasures contained inside the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence.
The scientists will monitor heartbeat, blood pressure and rate of breathing as visitors take in the exquisite frescoes that adorn the palace. Afterwards, participants will be asked to write down their impressions of what they saw, and how they felt physically and emotionally.
The "multi-sensory" tests on volunteers started yesterday and are scheduled to continue until the end of August.
Also known as Florence Syndrome, Stendhal Syndrome has been described as a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations in people who are exposed to extraordinary artistic achievement. (© Daily Telegraph, London)