The model of 'Bathsheba with the letter of David', a work by Rembrandt admired by millions of visitors to the Louvre in Paris, was suffering from a thrombophlebitis of a superficial vein of the breast. This is what Paolo Zamboni, professor of the University of Ferrara, says in a study published in the Journal of thrombosis and haemostasis that solves a three-century-long medical puzzle linked to the woman portrayed in 1654, the model who became a lover of the Dutch painter.
To trigger the dispute, a detail of the portrayed woman's left breast, furrowed by an irregular, slightly swollen mark, of a color between bluish and brownish. Detail that has led over the centuries to various hypotheses, from mastitis to breast cancer. However, none of the proposed diagnoses was ever considered clinically satisfactory. Until today.
"One of the last scientific articles on the riddle - explains Zamboni - had established, on a biophysical basis, that Bathsheba's disease could not be located deeper than three millimeters from the surface of the skin, otherwise the painter could not have visually perceived it. And then reproduce it. These data made me think that Rembrandt could have represented the thrombophlebitis of a superficial vein of the breast, a condition described by Mondor in 1939 ". "Coincidentally, a few days after my reflections I found on the right breast of a patient something absolutely mirror of the irregular bluish spot that is present on Batsabea's left breast." Clinical investigations have confirmed the diagnosis of thrombophlebitis and excluded the hypothesis of cancer or mastitis.