The "Art & Epilepsy" DVD was produced and directed by Dr. Fabienne Picard, neurologist at the University Hospitals of Geneva. It takes a long look at epilepsy from a unique, not merely medical, point of view: It delves into the arts...
Whether Van Gogh (1853–1890) had epilepsy has been subject to doubt and conjecture in the fields of art and medicine. Even epileptologists have had divergent views. Gastaut admitted that Van Gogh had epilepsy, but considered that his seizures were triggered by alcohol [1–3], whereas according to Hughes, Van Gogh more likely suffered from fainting fits .
The recent edition of Van Gogh's correspondence (Vincent van Gogh: The Letters, edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker, 2009) makes the diagnosis of epilepsy indisputable. The letters permit a diagnosis from 1888 (age 35), but seizures may have started earlier. Thus, on May 23, 1889, he wrote his brother Theo:
I dare to believe that once one knows what it is, once one is aware of one's state and of possibly being subject to crises, that then one can do something about it oneself so as not to be caught so much unaware by the anguish or the terror. Now, this has been diminishing for 5 months, I have good hope of getting over it, or at least of not having crises of such force.
St. Valentine is recognised in the Christian world as the patron saint of epilepsy. But who was he and why did he become particularly linked to epilepsy?
To answer these questions we need to understand something of the historical and cultural perception of illness and disease generally and of epilepsy in particular.
Epilepsy has a much longer history than Christianity. It has been recognised for at least 4,000 years and it was invariably connected to the gods in the ancient cultures that pre-dated Christianity. The ancient Egyptians, the Hindus in ancient India and the Aztecs and Incas in Central America all linked epilepsy to their gods.
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