Entitled "The agony and the ecstasy, or why bad art really is a pain", this article appeared in the Sunday Living Section of the Times-Picayune, copyright 2009 New Scientist Magazine, so it must be true. The byline is Health News Service.
"The power of art to heal emotional wounds is well known, but could contemplating a beautiful painting have the same effect on physical pain?
To investigate, Marina de Tommaso and a team from the University of Bari in Italy asked 12 men and women to pick the 20 paintings they considered most ugly and most beautiful from a selection of 300 works by artists such as da Vinci and Botticelli.
They were then asked to contemplate either the beautiful paintings or the ugly painting, or a blank panel while the team zapped a short laser pulse at their hand, creating a pricking sensation.
The subjects rated the pain as being a third less intense while they were viewing the beautiful paintings, compared with contemplating the ugly paintings or the blank panel. Electrodes measuring the brain's electrical activity suggested a reduced response to the pain when the subject looked at beautiful paintings.
While distractions are known to reduce pain in hospital patients, de Tommaso says this is the first result to show that beauty plays a part. 'Hospitals have been designed to be functional, but we think that their aesthetic aspects should be taken into account, too', she says."
Well done and thank you very much, Ms. de Tommaso and the team from the University of Bari. I know undoubtedly that for me, looking at what I consider to be beautiful art not only reduces pain both emotional and physical, but always lifts my spirits as well.
In the spirit of the season- Tax Time in the US- if anyone wishes to ease the pain that rolls around every April 15th, may I suggest looking for a painting to add to your collection. I may have just the right painting for you on my website.
Not only will it ease your pain and lift your spirits, you'll also lift the spirits of my very dear husband, while helping the New Orleans local economy.
Who knew that one painting could do so much good?