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The Piscine Probatica, a painted canvas of the Hotel-Dieu of Rheims, documentation of an epidemic at the end of the 15th century


, : The Piscine Probatica, a painted canvas of the Hotel-Dieu of Rheims, documentation of an epidemic at the end of the 15th century. Histoire des Sciences Medicales 45(3): 275-283

The Piscina Probatica theme is the highly distinctive iconography in an impressive painted canvas from the ancient Rheims hôtel-Dieu, dating back to the late 15th or early 16th century. In the first place, it is interesting to note that the actual site of the pool has been located, so that archaeological findings bring confirmation to testament scriptures. Through the choice of the painted-canvas medium, and thanks to his great pictorial skill, the anonymous Rheims artist has given us a document of exceptional value, concerning the signs and symptoms of an illness which wrought havoc in the Rheims area in his own lifetime, namely ignis plaga or "mal des ardents". Other great artists of the same period, such as J. Bosch, have testified to the horror of the illness. As a matter-of-fact, the illness has been fully documented, from the 17th century onwards, and the medical expert H.A. Tessier, also acting as an agricultural expert, has demonstrated that ergotized rye is responsible for the fatal condition known as ergotism, and for the heavy toll it has levied on human lives in the course of centuries.

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PMID: 22073758


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