The world's first medical 'dissection' of Klimt's ‘The Kiss’
Category Research
Writer 행정부서 (11) 윤정진
Date Modified Date : 2022.01.26
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The world's first medical 'dissection' of Klimt's ‘The Kiss’

Reinterpreting contemporary science as an artistic metaphor

Published at the JAMA, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, is a new medical perspective of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)'s ‘The Kiss’, one of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century beloved worldwide, published by Professor Im Joo Rhyu and his research team Profs Dae-Hyun Kim and Hyunmi Park from Korea University College of Medicine. 

The publication is gathering attention not only from the medical world, but from the art community and public alike. The research team’s comparative analysis of the patterns and symbols in ‘the Kiss’ with contemporary medical literature have unlocked the century old secrets of the mysteries of human development hidden in the garments of Klimt’s painted lovers. The monochrome rectangles in the man’s cloak are expressed as symbols of masculinity by diagramming the neck of the sperm observed with a high-resolution microscope (A). The many round-shaped eggs adorn the woman’s dress with sperms swimming around them. A single orange egg is touched by a single sperm, representing the recently discovered medical phenomenon of postfertilization surface reaction in the ovum membrane preventing other sperms from entering (B2). The dress also features fertilized eggs dividing into 2, 4, and 8 cell stages (C) later developing into a mulberry fruit-like structure (D) composed of 12 to 32 divided cell groups, which represent the first 3 days of human development weaved into the ‘the Kiss’.

The light microscope that was invented in the 17th century reached modern technological levels by the mid 19th century aiding the understanding of the microstructure of cells and bacteria, and Klimt was part of the Viennese Modernist community at the turn of the 20th century, allowing the cross-fertilization between the arts and sciences.

Research director Professor Im Joo Rhyu, explains that one of the great themes that Klimt pursued throughout his life was the human cycle of life and death, and the bilateral influence of arts and sciences resulted in Klimt’s beloved paintings.