, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 89-93

Breast cancer in Rubens paintings

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Abstract

Rubens was one of main baroque painters who practices realism, which means that he painted whatever his eyes capture. That fact has helped us with the visual aspect and the circumstances where such paintings were painted. This has allowed us to discover alterations in the breast of the models he painted, which suggest breast cancer. Such painting are 'The three Graces', 'Diana and her nymphs pursued by satires', 'Orpheus and Euridice'. In 'The three Graces' we can see that the model on the right has an open ulcer with reddening of the skin, nipple retraction, reduction of breast volume as well as axilar lymph nodes. This is a visual aspect of a locally advanced breast cancer. In Diana and her nymphs pursued by satires and in Orpheus and Euridice we can see a breast retraction in the same place as in 'The three Graces', which suggest breast cancer indirectly. The analysis of the tumor mass in the models of these pictures allow us to know more on the works, the social environment and the diseases happened in the years this painter lived.