Her famous smile may have been the result of fatty acids gathered around her eye socket, suggesting high cholesterol levels, according to an Italian medical expert.
Vito Franco, Professor of Pathological Anatomy at the University of Palermo, who has been studying art masterpieces for evidence of disease and illness, alleged some of the world’s greatest works of art revealed signs of illness.
“I look at art with a different eye from an art expert, much as a mathematician listens to music in a different way from a music critic,” Times Online quoted him as saying.
Professor Franco, who presented his findings at a European congress on human pathology in Florence, said he had found evidence of a range of afflictions in not only aristocrats but also madonnas, angels and mythical heroes.
In Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, at the Prado in Madrid, the five-year-old Infanta Margarita depicted with her attendants at the court of Philip IV appears to be a victim of Albright syndrome, “a genetic illness involving precocious puberty, low stature, bone disease and hormonal problems”.
The “almost feminine” elegance of the young nobleman in a red velvet hat and wearing a gold medal in Sandro Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man at the National Gallery in Washington was due to his unnaturally long, thin fingers – a sign of arachnodactyly, or “spider fingers”. This condition is linked to Marfan syndrome, a genetic defect apparently visible in Parmigianino’s long-necked Madonna, at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
The Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca appears to have a swelling of the thyroid gland on her neck “typical of people who drank water from a well in certain areas” in medieval times, it was claimed.
Professor Franco also claims that Michelangelo’s own ailment, that he diagnoses as kidney stones, seem to come to the surface in Raphael’s School of Athens, where he appears with strangely swollen and knobbly knees.