Trivium Art History
Jacques-Louis David
Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus's Disease, 1774 — Jacques-Louis David,

Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus's Disease

Jacques-Louis David, 1774

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120 cm155 cm

While studying painting at the French Academie, now the Musee du Louvre, Jacques-Louis David painted four artworks in application to the pristegous Prix de Rome scholarship. His first three submissions were regected, but his fourth — 'Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus's Disease' finally won the Prix. 

The painting depicts the Greek physician Erasistratus (circa 330-255 BC), answering the call of Seleucus, the king of Syria — whose son Antiochus was terribly sick. Erasistratus discovered that Antiochus suffered no physical ailment, but was weak and near death. By observing the young man's behavior Erasistratus identified his condition as lovesickness, and further — that the object of his passion was his stepmother, the queen Stratonice. 

Erasistratus was renowned for his medical treatments that were based on his understanding of human anatomy and neuroanatomy, learned from dissecting the bodies of condemned criminals. Erasistratus is said to be the first physiologist, and the first to understand the heart's function as a pump.

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