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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 283-286

The goitrous Salting Madonnas: Iconography of goiter in religious portraits

1 Department of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Villa Salaria Clinic, Rome, Italy
2 Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy

Correspondence Address:
Davide Lazzeri
Department of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Villa Salaria Clinic, Rome
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.232366

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Introduction: George Salting was an art collector, who bequeathed his collection of paintings to the National Gallery of London. The present investigation has revealed five portraits of five different artists belonging to this collection in which the Holy Mother holding the child has been portrayed with a variable grade of thyroid gland enlargement. The name Salting, applied to the Madonnas with child by Antonello da Messina, Robert Campin, Dirk Bouts, Cima da Conegliano, and Andrea del Verrocchio, denotes George Salting, the collector who donated the masterworks to the gallery in 1910. Materials and Methods: The five paintings were analyzed to determine the accuracy of the diagnosis of neck swelling and the underlying iconographical significance of this depiction, which is relatively uncommon in religious artworks. Results: The present investigation highlighted an abnormal profile of the neck of the Virgin Mary, which is suggestive of a presumptive medico-artistic diagnosis of goiter. The inclusion of thyroid swelling in a holy sitter is relatively uncommon and is related to specific meanings that the painter wanted to illustrate in the work, the reasons for which are herein discussed. Conclusions: It seems likely that the integration of the goiter in the paintings is a stylistic hallmark. Indeed, the depiction of a slight neck enlargement is most probably a rhetorical tendency of representing an idealized female beauty, especially in holy sitters, imbued by a balanced neck and graceful body. At the same time, it probably also reflects better anatomic accuracy and knowledge of Renaissance artists applied toward a more realistic and precise representation of subjects.

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