Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Pinel Orders the Chains Removed From the Insane at Bicêtre

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003;60(5):442. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.60.5.442.
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PHILIPPE PINEL (1745-1826) arrived in Paris, France, in 1778 after completing his medical studies in Toulouse and Montpellier. He tutored mathematics, translated medical texts, immersed himself in the study of natural history and the new empirical epistemology of John Locke and of Etienne Condillac, and edited the Gazette de santé (Journal of Health). The mismanagement of a friend's melancholia, leading to his death, stimulated Pinel's interest in mental illness. Subsequently, he worked as a consultant at a private psychiatric clinic in Paris.1(pp68-69) He expressed interest in the psychological effects of popular treatments, such as those of Anton Mesmer ("medicine of the imagination"), without endorsing their explanations.1 In 1793, appointed physician of the infirmaries at Bicêtre, a public hospice for men just outside of Paris, he brought the revolutionary inspiration of the Rights of Man, declared by the French National Assembly in 1789, to the destitute.

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Charles Louis-Muller (1815-1892), French. Pinel Orders the Chains Removed From the Insane at Bicêtre, 1849. Oil on canvas. Copyright Bibliothèque de l'Académie Nationale de Médecine, Paris, France. Transparency obtained was produced from a photograph of the painting taken by J. L. Charmet, Paris.

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