People Keep Suffering Health Problems When Viewing Botticelli's Venus

Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, a tempera painting thought to have been commissioned by the Medici family, has been practically omnipresent since the Italian Renaissance painter first unveiled his masterpiece, all the way back in the 15th century. Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Reebok, Adobe Illustrator, and the photographer David LaChapelle are just some of those who've recently ensured that the painting's reach has continued to stretch far beyond the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where it currently resides—and where it apparently had such an impact on an Italian museumgoer that he suffered a heart attack.

We can't exactly blame the man, who, by the way, was reportedly rushed to the hospital where he's now in recovery, after receiving treatment from four visiting doctors and a defibrillator. It was, after all, the goddess of love and beauty who Botticelli sought to depict in the mid-1480s, which he did during her arrival to the island of Cyprus, immediately after emerging from the sea fully grown, with the nude body to prove it. (While fully on display atop a giant scallop shell, in front of a welcome crew including the wind god, Zephyr, she admittedly makes some use of her nearly knee-length golden hair to maintain a degree of modesty.)

A detail of the goddess Venus upon her arrival to the seashore as a full-grown woman, featured in Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, on view at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The incident this past week, however, wasn't the first testament to Botticelli's success in illustrating—and even creating—a beauty standard; another museumgoer reportedly suffered an epileptic fit when facing Venus in all of her splendor, contributing to the theory that both were victims of what's been known as Stendhal syndrome, since its namesake patient zero reported experiencing palpitations after taking in the Basilica di San Croce, and more "sublime beauty" to be found throughout Florence.

In addition to being known as hyperkulturemia, the condition has in fact also adopted the name Florence syndrome, as some believe the city's artistic beauty and cultural significance to be the most culpable in leaving viewers of artistic masterpieces overwhelmed enough for their feelings to reach a visceral, physical level. (Symptoms, according to a study that the medical journal BMJ published in 2009, include dizziness, confusion, fainting, increased heart rate, and, yes, even hallucinations.)

Rather than avoiding the blame, the Uffizi seems to be embracing the incident as good press. Indeed, even though the museum's director, Eike Schmidt, made it clear to the the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he is "not a doctor," he still took it upon himself to offer his medical opinion on the matter. "All I know is that visiting a museum like ours, which is full of masterpieces, can certainly cause emotional, psychological, and even physical stress," he said. He also appeared to venture forth the idea that in such scenarios, beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder—otherwise there isn't much weight to his example that another museumgoer recently fainted in front of Caravaggio's Medusa.

Caravaggio’s 1597 painting Medusa, also on view at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Related: All the Art World Drama in 2018: A Recap of the Scandals, the Controversies, and the Trump Trolling

The first W Art Issue cover, from November 2006, was a collaboration between the artist Richard Tuttle and the photographer Mario Sorrenti.

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