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Spotting pathology in art: Arch in the back

In the latest in our series looking at potential medical issues in famous works of art, Dr Keith Hopcroft considers a painting by Sir Charles Bell, the surgeon and artist who gave his name to ‘Bell’s Palsy’

What is going on in this picture and what has caused it?

Hint: the answer will make you grateful for the UK vaccination programme.

Answer below! You may also wish to look at the other pieces in this series:

Spotting pathology in art: ‘The Ugly Duchess’

Spotting pathology in art: realist painting of a woman in a field

Spotting pathology in art: 17th-Century Portrait of a Woman

Spotting pathology in art: Self portrait by Dutch magic realist

Spotting pathology in the Mona Lisa

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

John Graham Munro 15 May, 2024 11:34 am

What exactly does a ‘medical advisor’ at PULSE actually do, apart from set quizzes and wander around ‘art galleries’?————and by the way, I got this one right

David Church 15 May, 2024 1:13 pm

Is Dr Munro looking for a job at Pulse ?
I want to know how we know it was a soldier. Were sick soldiers always nursed naked if they had long hair?

Bob Sagit 16 May, 2024 12:34 pm

It is from Charles Bell’s series of paintings titled ‘The Wounded following the Battle of Corunna’ depicting wounded soldiers on their return to Portsmouth from the Iberian Peninsula after a battle with the French. The majority of the paintings depict gunshot wounds.