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A Fierce Palpitation

Photo by dospaz via Flickr.

Have you ever been truly moved by a piece of art? Perhaps it “spoke” to you on a personal level, or maybe it was so beautiful it simply took your breath away? You may have written about it in your diary or on your blog, it might have been a topic of discussion with friends over lunch, or it may have caused you to run to the gift shop and demand a reproduction. Regardless of your reaction, you no doubt were able to move on with your life.

Some people are not so lucky, though. Those who suffer from hyperkulturemia can be thrown into a full psychosomatic outbreak upon encountering a particularly beautiful work of art. Symptoms include dizziness and an increased heartbeat, which can lead to fainting and hallucinations; a victim is left feeling confused, for lack of a better word.

Hyperkulturemia, otherwise known as Stendhal or Florence Syndrome, draws it origins from the writings of Henri-Marie Beyle, a French author who went by the nom de plume of Stendhal. Beyle was on an Italian tour, when he found himself in the hallowed halls of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 1817. As he was taking in the priceless works of art, he began to feel faint from the beauty of it all. Once recovered, he documented his spell for all to read about. Nevertheless, it took over 160 years for this phenomenon to acquire an actual diagnosis, when in 1979 Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini published her case studies of her first-hand observations of Stendhal Syndrome at work.

So, if you find yourself before a particularly beautiful piece of art and are “seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart,” you may be suffering from Stendhal Syndrome. But, we advise you seek medical attention just in case.

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