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Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria

Print version ISSN 0004-282X

Arq. Neuro-Psiquiatr. vol.71 no.5 São Paulo May 2013

http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0004-282X20130029 

Historical Notes

Where is Gilles? Or, the little mistake in a copy of Brouillet's painting: "A clinical lesson at the Salpêtrière"

Onde está Gilles? Ou, o pequeno engano em uma cópia da pintura de Brouillet: "Uma lição clínica na Salpêtrière"

Francisco M. B. Germiniani

Adriana Moro

Renato P. Munhoz

Hélio A. G. Teive

1Movement Disorders Unit, Neurology Service, Internal Medicine Department, Hospital de Clínicas, Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), Curitiba PR, Brazil

ABSTRACT

Professor Jean-Martin Charcot is considered the most important professor of Neurology and also the head of the Salpêtrière School of Neurology. In a famous picture painted by André Brouillet and presented at the Salon of 1887, under the title "A clinical lesson at the Salpêtrière", Professor Charcot presents a case of hysteria to a large audience of physicians and renowned intellectuals. Copies of this guided picture are also available for sale at the shop of the Museum of the School of Medicine of Paris and are frequently used in lectures by neurologists worldwide. However, in these reproductions, Gilles de la Tourette's and Charles Féré's positions are inverted. This historical note sheds some light on this little mistake in some of the reproductions of Brouillet's famous painting, so that further confusion can be avoided.

Key words: Salpêtrière; Charcot; Brouillet; Gilles de la Tourette; Féré

RESUMO

O professor Jean-Martin Charcot é considerado o professor mais importante da Neurologia e também o chefe da Escola de Neurologia de Salpêtrière. Em um quadro célebre pintado por André Brouillet e apresentado no Salão de 1887, sob o título "Uma Lição Clínica na Salpêtrière", o professor Charcot apresenta um caso de histeria a um grande público composto de médicos e intelectuais de renome. Cópias desse quadro também estão disponíveis para venda na loja do Museu da Escola de Medicina de Paris e são frequentemente utilizadas em palestras ministradas por neurologistas em todo o mundo. No entanto, nessas reproduções, Gilles de la Tourette e Charles Féré estão em posições invertidas. Esta nota histórica alerta sobre esse pequeno engano em algumas das reproduções da famosa pintura de Brouillet, a fim de que mais confusão seja evitada.

Palavras-Chave: Salpêtrière; Charcot; Brouillet; Gilles de la Tourette; Féré

Professor Jean-Martin Charcot is considered the founder of clinical Neurology. In 1882, he was the first professor of Diseases of the Nervous System and would eventually become not only the most important professor of Neurology but also the head of the Salpêtrière School of Neurology 14 .

At that time, the French School of Neurology was known and respected worldwide as a reference centre for many physicians, who had the opportunity of acting as visiting physicians under the guidance of Charcot and his service at the Salpêtrière's Hospital: Bechterew, Darkschewitch, Kojewnikow, Marinesco, Sachs and Sigmund Freud were among them 3,5 .

During Charcot's tenure at La Salpêtrière, from 1862 to his death in 1893, he was responsible for overseeing 32 house officers; most of them became neurologists and some professors at the Medical School in Paris 3,5,6 .

Several of Charcot's disciples would themselves become famous, including Bouchard, Joffroy, Debove, Raymond, Brissaud, Pierre Marie, Pitrè, Bourneville, Gilles de la Tourette, Babinski, Guinon, Souques and Meige 3,510 .

The Leçons du mardi à la Salpêtrière ("Clinical lessons at the Salpêtrière") were weekly case discussions conducted every Tuesday by Charcot. As these were open events, not only Charcot's students and disciples would attend these meetings but also some Parisian important figures, including writers, like Guy de Maupassant, socialites and political figures, such as Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil 3,4,610 .

"A CLINICAL LESSON AT THE SALPêTRIèRE"

“A clinical lesson at the Salpêtrière” is an oil on canvas collective portrait, painted by André Brouillet (1857–1914). It was first exhibited at the salon of 1887 and afterwards became a very famous and iconic picture. The painting depicts Charcot examining his famous hysterical patient, Ms. Blanche Witmann, which is held up by his assistant Joseph Babinski. Several of Charcot’s disciples, students, nurses and members of the Paris smart set are also depicted, including: Ms. Bottard, Gilles de la Tourette, Vigouroux, Parinaud, H. Berbez, Londe, Guinon, le Bas, Gombault, Arène, Claretie, Naquet, Bourneville, Ballet, Cornil, Burty, Debove, Duval, J. B. Charcot, P. Berbez, Brissaud, Joffroy, Pierre Marie, Charles Féré and Richer 3,6,9,10.

The classical painting of Brouillet is located at the Museum of the History of Medicine, in Paris (Fig 1A).

Fig 1. (A) "A clinical lesson at the Salpêtrière", the original painting exhibited at the Musée de l'Histoire de la Médicine and (B) labeled copy of the painting, right opposite the original picture. Notice that Tourette and Féré are mislabeled. Both pictures were taken by one of the authors, Francisco M. B. Germiniani, at the Museum, on 18th May 2012. 

THE MISTAKEN COPY OF THE "A CLINICAL LESSON AT THE SALPêTRIèRE"

Nowadays, a copy of Brouillet's classical "A clinical lesson at the Salpêtrière" with all the characters labeled is depicted right opposite the original painting at the Museum of the History of Medicine, in Paris. Copies of this guided picture are also available for sale at the Museum's shop and are frequently used in lectures by neurologists worldwide. In the poster copy, Charcot's students, disciples, nurses, doctors and nonmedical luminaries of Paris are identified with numbered figures and a labeled key that has all the characters outlined. However, in these reproductions, Gilles de la Tourette's and Charles Féré's positions are inverted. Gilles de la Tourette, a very famous disciple of Charcot, is labeled as number 27, whereas Charles Féré, a psychiatrist and Charcot's private secretary, is shown as number 5. According to Brouillet's original picture, the correct labeling would have Gilles de la Tourette as number 5 and Charles Féré as number 27. The same happens with the labeled, but not numbered, reproduction at display at the Museum of the History of Medicine in Paris, right across the original painting 3,6,9,10 (Fig 1B).

DISCUSSION

Georges édouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette (1857–1904), one of Charcot's favorites disciples, is better known for describing the complex tic disorder that would later carry his name (Fig 2A), and Charles Féré (1852–1907) was a psychiatrist and acted as Charcot's private secretary early in his career (Fig 2B). Both Tourette and Féré shared some similar physical features, including a full-grown beard and a receding hairline, but Féré's beard was far longer and unkempt and his receding hairline was more prominent. These similarities could lead the inattentive viewer to easily mistake them. Such is the case in the labeled copy of "A clinical lesson at the Salpêtrière" displayed at the Museum, as their positions are inverted.

Fig 2. (A) Georges E. B. Gilles de la Tourette (1857–1904) (extracted from Google Images - Gacougnolle.com) and (B) Charles Féré (1852-1907) (extracted from Google Images - Baillement.com). 

This historical note sheds some light on this little mistake in some of the reproductions of Brouillet's famous painting, so that further confusion can be avoided.

References

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2. Goetz CG. Charcot: the clinician. The Tuesday lessons. New York: Raven Press; 1987. p. 35-49. [ Links ]

3. Goetz CG, Bonduelle M, Gelfand T. Charcot: constructing neurology. New York: Oxford University Press; 1995. p. 149-151. [ Links ]

4. Walusinski O. Jean-Martin Charcot's house officers at La Salpêtrière Hospital. In: Following Charcot: a forgotten history of neurology and psychiatry. Frontiers of neurology and neuroscience. Switzerland: S. Karger AG; 2011. p. 9-35. [ Links ]

5. Teive HAG, Almeida SM, Arruda WO, Sá DS, Werneck LC. Charcot and Brazil. Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2001;59:295-299. [ Links ]

6. Broussolle E, Poirier J, Clarac F, Barbara JG. Figures and institutions of the neurological sciences in Paris from 1880 to 1950. Part III: neurology. Rev Neurol (Paris) 2012;168:301-320. [ Links ]

7. Teive HAG, Chien HF, Munhoz RP, Barbosa ER. Charcot's contribution to the study of Tourette's syndrome. Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2008;66:918-921. [ Links ]

8. Teive HAG, Munhoz RP, Simões JC. Charcot's son, commander Jean-Baptiste Charcot: from neurology to "Pourquoi Pas?" Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2012;70:305-307. [ Links ]

9. Vessier M. La Pitié-Salpêtrière. Quatre siècles d'histoire et d'histoires. Publié par le Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France; 1999. p. 195-202. [ Links ]

10. La leçon de Charcot. Voyage dans une toile. Exposition organisée au Musée de l'Assistance Publique de Paris, 17 septembre - 31 décembre 1986. [ Links ]

Received: November 3, 2012; Accepted: November 12, 2012

Correspondence: Hélio A.G. Teive; General Carneiro 1103 / 102; 80060-150 Curitiba PR - Brasil; E-mail: hagteive@mps.com.br

Conflict of interest: There is no conflict of interest to declare.

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