Manic Monday: Hysteric for Charcot’s Mysterious Medical Muses

Charcot - Frighteningly Real

Charcot {29 November 1825 – 16 August 1893}

Remembered today as a leading mind in the fields of neurology and psychology, Jean-Martin Charcot‘s legacy is as much in his strange medical photography, as his famous pupils (Sigmund Freud and Georges Gilles de la Tourette), and important breakthroughs in the field.

Taken for research purposes, these bizarre medical photographs were used to document the various affects and disorders of the 19th century’s most scandalous disorder – Female Hysteria.

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Charcot- Say Hello To My God- Science and Faith - Art and Reality- Vintage Style

For thousands of years, hysteria has plagued the medical community as a bit of a mystery. Known as “the wandering womb” by Hippocrates since the Ancient Greeks, the known method for treatment was almost always pregnancy until the 19th Century when a vaginal massage and/or stimulation using a vibrator or water hose administered by your family doctor was the modern approach.

Charcot, however, was interested in the minds of these plagued women, and hoped to use one of technology’s latest advancements, photography, to aid his research.

Charcot- vintage medical photography- wild history

Charcot - The Ladies - Magic Medical Mystery (x4)

Charcot - Many Faces and Treatments - Art and Medicine

What resulted is a macabre collection of photographs that capture terrifying and strange lost moments between doctor and patient. He took these photographs over the course of many years with hundreds of different women, as well as men (murderers and convicts) to decipher the physical codes of the world’s most confusing ancient tradition – madness.

The Eye of Faith- Charcot - Strange Behaviour

Charcot - Twisted Sister

Charcot - Vintage Style - Design Wise - Images - Man Alive

Although some of his attendants and colleagues who describe these photography sessions as highly staged, with Charcot demanding perfection of the moment that usually occurred back at the hospital, beyond the truthful eyes of the 19th Century camera. He painstakingly ensured the detail captured in each photograph was true to, what he thought, was the true depiction of the disease and its many characteristics.

Charcot- Master Mystery Tour- Vintage Medical Photography- Hysteric

 

The photographs are very specific and plain. No out of element lighting techniques or off angles – just the subject, and their explicit diagnoses. What came through is a very disturbing display.

The photographs were used to illustrate the true nature of this neurological disorder to a society fascinated by the elaborate and unusual. While many of the women were unable to be treated for their “problems”, they remain unforgettable figures of our modern life.

L0034940 Series of three photos showing a hysterical screaming woman

Today, they are as awesome and curious as ever, with hardly anything in our contemporary culture to compare these majestic and mysterious medical muses.

We really wanted to share. Don’t get hysteric!

Until we meet again,

{theEye}

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3 responses to “Manic Monday: Hysteric for Charcot’s Mysterious Medical Muses

  1. For at least two thousand years of European history until the late nineteenth century hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus (from the Greek ὑστέρα “hystera” = uterus), such as when a neonate emerges from the female birth canal . The origin of the term hysteria is commonly attributed to Hippocrates , even though the term isn’t used in the writings that are collectively known as the Hippocratic corpus .

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