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Lancet. 1988 Jun 4;1(8597):1267-9.

Rheumatic disease, heavy-metal pigments, and the Great Masters.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The painters Rubens, Renoir, and Dufy suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and Klee from scleroderma. Analysis of the areas of various colours in randomly selected paintings by these four artists and by eight "controls" (contemporary painters without rheumatic disease) suggests that Rubens, Renoir, Dufy, and Klee used significantly more bright and clear colours based on toxic heavy metals and fewer earth colours containing harmless iron and carbon compounds. These four painters may have been heavily exposed to mercury sulphide, cadmium sulphide, arsenic sulphide, lead, antimony, tin, cobalt, manganese, and chromium, the metals of the bright and clear colours, and exposure to these metals may be of importance in the development of inflammatory rheumatic diseases. Artists today are not so exposed, but heavy metal contamination in food and drinking water exists and experience from the occupational exposure of old masters is still relevant.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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