S is for the Stendhal Syndrome
Visitors are often overcome in museums (ok not always by the exhibits), but pity poor Marie-Henri Beyle (better known as French writer Stendhal) who, when exposed to too much art, couldn’t pop into the gallery café for a quick macchiato or quietly browse in the bookshop. Instead, overwhelmed by the beauty of Venice, Stendhal was pole-axed by fainting spells and hallucinations.
“Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty… I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations… Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves.’ Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.”Illustration: Pippin Barr