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Art is not for the faint-hearted according to the news that came out of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence last week. As the Art Newspaper reported, an unnamed visitor to the museum was admiring Sandro Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus and found the experience so intense that he suffered a heart attack. And according to the newspaper, racing hearts in art lovers is nothing new. The condition even has a name - the Stendhal Syndrome.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

The Stendhal Syndrome was named after the 19th-century French writer Marie-Henn Beyle who wrote of a “kind of ecstasy” while in the Basilica di Santa Croce: “I had palpitations; the life went out of me, and I walked in fear of falling.” As he explained it, the symptom came upon him with the sudden awareness that Michelangelo, who he worshipped for giving us the statue of David, was buried in the building.

The Daily Mail reported that an Italian psychiatrist at the Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Florence named the syndrome in 1989 after receiving several complaints of dizziness from tourists when they saw Michelangelo's David.

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Stress test

The Uffizi director, Eike Schmidt, told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera of other such incidents that occur to the museum's visitors. In 2016, for example, a tourist had an epileptic fit upon seeing Botticelli's Birth of Venus. And another tourist fainted in front of Caravaggio's Medusa. When asked why the art on display can put visitors in hospitals, Schmidt told the newspaper, “I'm not a doctor. All I know is that visiting a museum like ours, which is so full of masterpieces, can certainly cause emotional, psychological and even physical stress.”

Yet, even despite reported symptoms of dizziness, fainting, hallucinations, and heart palpitations, the medical community doesn't recognize the syndrome as an illness, according to the Daily Mail. That said, a cardiologist at the Careggi Hospital in Florence, where the recent heart attack victim is recovering, told the newspaper that doctors there are used to dealing with art lovers suffering the syndrome.

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Clueing in

Taking a look at the object of the latest victim's affection - Botticelli's Birth of Venus – offers a possible clue to his reaction. What you see is a golden-haired woman with movie star looks completely nude emerging from the sea and floating to shore on a seashell in perfect balance and harmony – chaste and untainted by the world. The Uffizi calls it a “hymn to beauty” and deems it “one of the loveliest visions ever painted,” adding, “This is not a religious painting, and yet we are impressed by how much religious feeling there is in it. Even the pagan gods that surround her bear a kind of holy purity.”

But there's something else besides the idyllic subject matter. There are Botticelli's flowing, curving and graceful lines that border every one of his picture parts and make them all pop. You can't stop looking.