Goiters in the Renaissance

Vesalius. 1997 Jun;3(1):23-32.


Enlargements of the thyroid gland known as goiters appear in artworks and artifacts of many cultures. They are represented in sculptures, bas-reliefs, masks, waxes, mosaics, bronzes, stained glass windows, paintings and drawings of the last two millennia. These are described in several monographs and in Merke's scholarly History and Iconography of Endemic Goitre and Cretinism (Barbieri 1993, Gianpalmo and Fulcheri 1988, Gianpalmo 1992, Medvei 1982, Merke 1984). Most numerous among these works are the portrayals of goiters in paintings and drawings of the Renaissance. This essay lists eleven additional Renaissance artworks in which goiters are represented, as well as reviewing reasons for this occurrence and examines the unusual case of Piero della Francesca.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Goiter / history*
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, Early Modern 1451-1600
  • Humans
  • Medicine in the Arts*
  • Paintings / history*