Jean-Martin Charcot demonstrating hysteria in a hypnotised patient at the Salpêtrière. Etching by A. Lurat, 1888, after P.A.A. Brouillet, 1887.
- Brouillet, André, 1857-1914.
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About this work
Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) was an expert in neurology and psychiatry. He had a clinic at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. At that time the Salpêtrière combined a lunatic asylum with a home for old women, which Charcot described as a "living museum of pathology". While he was working there, the epileptic patients were required to be separated from the hysterics, and the task was entrusted to Charcot. He found that the vocabulary used in psychiatry was extremely confused, that there were overlaps between categories, and the categories themselves were used inconsistently. He gave demonstrations of the different pathological states by hypnotising his patients and inducing them to enact the symptoms. His favourite subject for these demonstrations was called Blanche Wittmann. She later became an employee of the hospital. André Brouillet's vast and dramatic oil painting of Charcot lecturing, Blanche Wittmann in a hypnotic trance, and the students and colleagues watching with fascination, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1887. The present small etching of the composition was suitable for consultant neurologists such as Sigmund Freud to frame and hang in their consulting rooms as an inspiration--unless they happened to be followers of a rival neurologist, Hippolyte Bernheim, who disputed the validity of Charcot's teachings