THE STENDHAL SYNDROME: TUBEREUSE CAPRICIEUSE by HISTOIRES DE PARFUMS (2009)

..and talking of synaesthesia….

The Black Narcissus

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The nineteenth century French novelist Stendhal, upon visiting Florence for the first time, was apparently so overcome with the beauty of the city –  of the duomo, the Uffizi, and in particular the ceiling frescoes by Giotto in the Basilica Santa Croce, that it made him ill: faint, dizzy, heart palpitating, this writer of delicate disposition was physically and psychically overwhelmed to the point of neurasthenia.

He was apparently also not alone, as this ‘aesthetic paralysis,’ or sense of the organism being unable to cope with extreme beauty, gave rise to a recognized medical condition: The Stendhal Syndrome, or hyperkulturemia.

I had never heard of this strange phenomenon until I saw a 1997 film with the same title by Italian horror master Dario Argento : a brutally beautiful film whose main protagonist (played by Argento’s own daughter, Asia) is an art student succumbing to the same fate as she…

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