Syphilis in german-speaking composers - 'examination results are confidential'

Front Neurol Neurosci. 2010;27:61-83. doi: 10.1159/000311192. Epub 2010 Apr 6.


Syphilis was endemic in Europe in the 19th century. Therefore, infection with the disease was common. As far as can be determined from contemporary sources, Schubert, Schumann and Wolf all died from the consequences of syphilis. However, as families tried to keep the shameful secret, the original sources are sparse. In this article, we will briefly illustrate Schubert's case and will then focus on Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf. Both shared such a variety of symptoms that interfered with their artistic expression, especially in respect to Lied compositions, that it seems improbable that they should have suffered from different diagnoses, as has been argued previously.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Famous Persons*
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine in the Arts*
  • Music / history*
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • Syphilis / history*