Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to other circumstances, as when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.

The illness is named after the famous 19th century French author Marie-Henri Stendhal, who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

Although there are many descriptions, dating from the early 19th century on, of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in Florentine art, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence. The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982. The term is also used when describing the reactions of audiences to music of the Romantic period.

It is similar but not identical to Paris Syndrome, a transient psychological disorder encountered by some people visiting or vacationing in Paris, France. The symptoms occur during a trip which confronts the traveller with things they had not previously experienced and did not anticipate. The symptoms did not exist before the trip and they disappear with a return to familiar surroundings.


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