Who is Stendhal?

stendhal portrait painting in close-up

Stendhal's real name

Stendhal is the pen name of Henri Beyle, a famous 19th-century French writer. He wrote Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839).

Beyle chose Stendhal as his pen name, with a French pronunciation. Contrary to popular belief, the writer did not borrow his pseudonym from Stendalthe German city where a famous archaeologist was born (Johann Joachim Winckelmann). According to some of his scholars, Stendhal is the anagram of Shetland, the Scottish islands very much loved by the French author.
We still do not know why he picked such a pseudonym and, apparently, Stendhal himself didn’t know how to pronounce it properly. That’s why the French pronunciation has prevailed eventually.

What is the Stendhal syndrome?

In 1817, Stendhal went to Italy, and he felt overcome by the cultural richness of Florence, in Tuscany. He wrote: "As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart (that same symptom which, in Berlin, is referred to as an attack of the nerves); the well-spring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground."
In 1979, the Italian psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini noticed that the psychosomatic conditions described by Stendhal, such as racing heart beat, nausea, and dizziness, were among first-time visitors to Florence. So, she named this condition after the Stendhal, who first wrote about this.

What are the characteristics of Stendhal syndrome?

The Stendhal syndrome is considered a psychosomatic disorder, which refers to intense physical and mental symptoms experienced while or after viewing a work of art. 
The characteristics of Stendhal syndrome are: altered perception of colours and sounds, a sense of depressive anxiety, or just the opposite: a sense of euphoria.

11 febbraio 2024
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