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Letters to the Editor   |    
The Use of Iconic Symbols to Represent Our Experience
Am J Psychiatry 2008;165:1051-1051. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08040481

To the Editor: The sculpture in the Images in Psychiatry article by Peter M. Bulow, M.D., M.F.A., as depicted in the March 2008 issue of the Journal, is a remarkable piece of art that succeeds in evoking a sense of pathos. Dr. Bulow stated that in conceiving the sculpture he was drawing upon “our common cultural heritage” (1, p. 334), and he refers to images of the Pietà and the Great Mother.

However, it should be noted that there are iconic sources both prior to the Pietà and relatively recent that are drawn upon. I refer first to Roman Charity, the story of Pero, who breast fed her father Cimon on her visits to his prison cell where he was condemned to starve to death. This story has been represented in many works of art throughout the centuries. The more recent story that could be referenced by Dr. Bulow’s sculpture is that of Rose of Sharon Joad, who suffered a miscarriage and breast fed a starving, dying man in The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.

The sources that Dr. Bulow drew upon to create his sculpture contribute to a sense of timelessness in experiencing a depiction of those who move through, share, and lose time.

1.Bulow PM: Alzheimer’s Madonna. Am J Psychiatry 2008; 165:334


+The author reports no competing interests.

+This letter (doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08040481) was accepted for publication in April 2008.



1.Bulow PM: Alzheimer’s Madonna. Am J Psychiatry 2008; 165:334

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