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Spotting pathology: Self portrait by Dutch magic realist

Our new mini-series looks at potential medical issues in famous works of art. Dr Keith Hopcroft looks at a self portrait by a Dutch magic realist painter

The expectation here is not to guess the artist; nor even get the precise diagnosis. But can you look carefully at the picture and work out what type of problem brought the artist of
this self-portrait to a premature demise aged 37?

Hint Start at the nails, then work up.

art of diagnosis

Answer This is a self-portrait by Dutch magic realist painter Dick Ket. The nails of his right hand are clearly clubbed. And his nose, and probably his lips, show central cyanosis. Put these together and you have congenital heart disease thought to be, in his case, Fallot’s tetralogy. Perhaps that’s why he’s revealing the cardiac area of his chest. And if you look very carefully, on the paper in the bottom right is written ‘Fin’ in mirror writing. So presumably he knew what was coming.

Dr Keith Hopcroft is  Pulse’s medical adviser and a GP in Basildon, Essex 


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Imogen Bloor 4 December, 2023 4:49 pm

Fascinating. And a raised JVP !