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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Stories of Melancholy and Raving Madness

07 April 2015

The life-size statues of ‘Raving and Melancholy Madness’ that were displayed at the entrance to Bethlem Hospital from 1676 to 1815 are the inspiration for an exhibition of contemporary art at the Royal College of Psychiatrists this month.


The exhibition is curated by four MA students from the Cass School of Art; Caterina Berardi, Becky Edwards, Jack Parrott and Mariaelena Soligo. It draws on the history of the two central figures to represent improvements in the treatment of mental health through contemporary art, and features newly-commissioned multi-media works by Mikey Cook, Travis Jeppesen, Jérémie Magar and Daniel Silver that portray the changing attitudes towards and understanding of mental illness.


The project is born under the initiative of David Gryn, director of Artprojx, for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and runs from 9 April until 9 May at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 21 Prescott Street, London E1.


Bethlem Hospital (historically and most notoriously known as Bedlam) is one of the world's oldest hospitals for the treatment of mental illness. It is perhaps best known for the fact that it allowed access to the public and casual visitors, providing a display of mental illness as a municipal attraction that is now considered by many to be its most scandalous feature.


The two reclining figures are said to represent the two faces of mental illness; the juxtaposition between manic and melancholic symptoms which lay at the heart of pre-medieval and early modern understandings of mental ill-health. Raving Madness is depicted in furious agony, writhing in hospital chains whereas Melancholy is free of restraint but expressionless and unengaged.


The statues are the most famous works of the Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber and were significant London landmarks of their time. They stood above the entrance to the old Bethlem Hospital from 1676 until 1815 at its site in Moorfields, London and were designed to recline over a portico and look down on visitors and staff coming in and out.


David Gryn, director of Artprojx said:


“This is an exciting first project uniting two local institutions, the Cass School of Art and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 


“It is intelligent social commentary, provided by a fusion of the art world meeting the Royal College of Psychiatrists that promises to engage and inspire all those who visit it.


“We hope local people, members of the college, students, young artists and journalists alike will appreciate and enjoy what these young curators are presenting, and perhaps even discover an appreciation of art and medicine that will remain with them throughout their lives.”


Notes to Editors

A private view, chaired by President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, takes place on 9 April at 18:00 – 20:00. Members of the press are invited to attend. Please contact Claire McLoughlin: 020 3701 2544/07738 349070

For further information, please contact:
Hannah Perlin
Senior Communications Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2738
Nick Hodgson
Media Manager 
Telephone: 0203 701 2593
Twitter: @rcpsych
Out-of-hours contact number: 07860 755896


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