Trivium Art HistoryJacques-Louis David

Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus's Disease

Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus's Disease, 1774 — Jacques-Louis David
120 cm155 cm

Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus's Disease is a Neoclassical, Oil on Canvas Painting created by Jacques-Louis David in 1774. It lives at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The image is in the Public Domain. Source

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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