Tales and portraits of medicine and disease

The exhibition 'Tales and portraits of medicine and disease. An evolution between science, art, and literature ', edited by the Cnr Press Office, addresses the concepts of disease and medicine through the literary and visual narrative forms that have characterized different historical periods. The exhibition itinerary follows two main pathways: on the one hand the scientific and clinical evolution of medicine, made possible by the progressing therapeutic advances, on the other the cultural evolution of the disease and of its account.

A series of 'rooms' guides the visitor on a journey through different pathologies: each of these is seen in different historical periods and according to various forms of representation: literary, artistic, diary, multimedia:

  • The plague, from myth to disappearance: a selection of excerpts on the epidemic, from classic texts such as the Iliad, to Boccaccio and Manzoni, up to the 'metaphorical' transformation of the subject (Camus).
  • Lunatics: room dedicated to the story of mental illness, starting from Freud moving through a narration that becomes therapy, in contrast to the marginalization / confinement of the lunatic.
  • Cancer, from the ‘deadly disease’ to exteriorization: the medical approach to cancer is described with an emphasis on the representation of the personal experiences of patients and doctors.
  • Blindness, words in the dark: a selection of passages by authors who write of blind people.
  • Patient and doctor in the history of art: a roundup of artistic works that 'portray' the disease, from breast cancer to other diseases, seen in their historical evolution.
  • Sick children: from Pinocchio to De Amicis, medicine and disease are recurrent in children's literature; on the other hand, sick childhood is present in literature in general: one room of the exhibition is dedicated to this theme.

The exhibition is completed by a series of historical objects from the Museum of the History of Medicine of the Sapienza University of Rome.

The first edition of 'Tales and portraits of medicine and disease' was hosted in Genoa as part of the 2018 Science Festival. On that occasion, an Instagram contest was created to allow visitors to interact by 'voting' for the favourite song, artwork, or panel. Upon request, the exhibition can be set up in other locations.


Allestimento al Festival della scienza 2018

Allestimento al Festival della scienza 2018

Marco Pallavicini, Ezio Ferdeghini, Marco Ferrazzoli

Set up of the exhibition at the Genoa Science Festival

Some of the historical objects on display

The exhibition curator Marco Ferrazzoli (right) with the president of the Science Festival Marco Pallavicini (in the center) and Ezio Ferdeghini (Cnr-Ifc)

Ilaria Cavo alla mostra Scuole in visita alla mostra Scolaresche in visita alla mostra
The visit of Ilaria Cavo, the Council member for communication, training, and youth policies of the Liguria Region 

School groups visiting the exhibition

School groups visiting the exhibition



"Very interesting, well explained and exhaustive itinerary" (visitor, Science Festival 2018)

"Intéressant! Je ne savais pas ça!" (visitor, Science Festival 2018)

"Moral blindness is today's insensitivity" (visitor, Science Festival 2018)




• 4 April - 5 May 2019: Pisa, Cnr Research Area (as part of the Cnr-Ifc 50th anniversary celebrations)

• 25 October - 4 November 2018: Genoa, 2018 Science Festival (Palazzo della Commenda di Prè)




Last update: 03/10/2023