– If Degas was born today, we could try to treat him, but then perhaps his impressionist paintings would not have been created. If Andrea Bocelli had been born 20 years later, he probably would not have lost his eyesight, but he would probably have become a lawyer and we would not have admired his voice and fortitude – Prof. talks about artists and eyesight. Edward Wylęgała, one of the most outstanding Polish ophthalmologists.
Katarzyna Pinkosz, Wprost: We admire painters for faithfully reflecting reality, but also for their artistic visions of the world. However, some paintings were painted this way because the artist was losing his eyesight or was unable to see colors.
Prof. Edward Wylęgała: It’s true, there were painters who lost their sight. For example, Edgar Degas, the impressionist. His very famous paintings depict ballerinas, exquisitely captured in movement.
Degas had vision problems from the age of 30. It was probably a central retinal lesion; He couldn’t aim well while hunting, and his handwriting was becoming more and more irregular.
Could you cure him today?
Today, medicine would not be able to help him, but maybe it will be possible soon. However, we could already make the correct diagnosis, determine the genotype, i.e. find the mutation site in the gene, and propose participation in a clinical trial: experimental implantation of a fluid with a virus carrying the correct gene under the retina. If it were “installed” into retinal cells, it would improve the transport of proteins. so that they do not cause the death of cells responsible for capturing light and there would be a chance for better vision. So far, 22 patients have undergone this experimental method.
We could also tell Degas not to consume too much vitamin A, as we know it can make the disease worse.
Interestingly, when I started practicing medicine, it was common to use vitamin A supplementation in retinal diseases, but today we know that it is not beneficial. We also know that light is toxic in these types of diseases, so we could offer Dagas sunglasses with a filter protecting against UV radiation. I think it would definitely slow down the progression of the disease. This would allow him to paint longer.
Over time, Degas began to move away from painting; he took up sculpture; it was easier for a person losing their sight; touch becomes sharper in a person who loses sight, one sense is replaced by another. However, I think that in 10-20 years it will be possible to effectively treat the disease from which the artist suffered…
But if he had seen well, he probably wouldn’t have created the famous Ballerinas or Dancers?