SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Allegorical picture illustrating the venereal epidemic of syphilis that spread throughout Europe in the late 15th century. This woodcut, printed in Germany in 1496, features the Virgin, enthroned on clouds, crowning a crusader kneeling at her right hand. It has been interpreted that the Christ Child on her knee is sending forth the plague of syphilis as a scourge on mankind. Two women, spotted with syphilis kneel in supplication, and the corpse lying the foreground also shows the syphilitic rash. At this time the nature and origin of this disease was a matter of confusion and controversy. Eventually it was recognised as a venereal disease and in 1530 named syphilis by Fracastoro.
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