Christina with a picture of Wyatt was diagnosed

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948
Museum of Modern Art

The American doctor diagnosed the heroine of the famous picture of theAmerican artist Andrew Wyeth “Christine’s World”. He prepared his conclusions  for presentation at the 23rd annual Historical Clinical and Pathological Conference, held by the University of Maryland.

The artist’s neighbor, Anne Christina Olson, pictured in the painting, suffered from a progressive neurological disorder from childhood. In adolescence, she often stumbled and fell, and by the age of 26 she could not walk more than three or four steps without help and use her fingers. After 50 years, she could not stand and lost sensitivity in the hands and feet. Olson died in 1968 at the age of 74 years.

Living in the neighborhood Wyeth repeatedly depicted her on their canvases. The most famous of them was the picture “The World of Christina”, written in 1948 – one of the most famous works of American painting of the middle of the twentieth century. During the creation of the picture Olson was 55 years old, and instead of it the artist posed his wife Betsey.

According to a widespread view, Olson suffered from the effects of polio, although she was not diagnosed during her lifetime. Marc Patterson, professor of neurology, pediatrics and medical genetics at the Mayo Clinic and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Child Neurology , got acquainted with the woman’s medical records, eyewitness accounts and Wyeth’s paintings. He came to the conclusion that it most likely suffered hereditary motor-sensory neuropathy (Charcot-Marie-Toot’s disease), which causes atrophy of the peripheral nerves with multilayered growths of myelin sheaths, reminiscent of the structure of the bulb.

The historical clinico-pathological conference was founded in 1995 by the historian of medicine from the University of Maryland Philip Mackowiak. Annually, she is examined by a presumptive diagnosis of a historical person. To date, there have been conferences devoted to Edgar Poe, Ludwig van Beethoven, King Herod, Jeanne d’Arc, Ehnaton, Charles Darwin, Vladimir Lenin and others.

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