Tuberculosis – also known as consumption, phthisis, waste disease, or white plague – is an ancient bacterial disease that decimated many generations in history; to this days, it remains a threat for the lungs, pleura, bones, peritoneum, pelvic visceral organs, and nervous system of anyone affected.
The tragic malady “locked in” – to quote Leopardi’s poem “To Silvia”) – countless historical figures, including Spinoza, Mozart, Chopin, Chekhov, Schiller, Molière, Gauguin, Watteau, and even Princess Sissi.
It was central to many literary works (such as “The Lady of the Camellias” by Dumas fils) and operas (to mention only the two most famous: in both Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Puccini’s “La Bohème” tuberculosis kills the main female characters, Mimì and Violetta).
It was a mysterious disease until 1882, when the German physician Robert Koch isolated the “Mycobacterium tubercolosis”.
In the early 1920s, just before the 1922 March on Rome, the Federazione Nazionale per la Lotta contro la Tubercolosi was founded in Italy (in 1929, the inevitable “Fascist” adjective was added to the name).
The federation, among other things, educated the population on personal hygiene practices that could avoid spreading or catching the disease, and raised awareness about ongoing research and the medical assistance it provided.
It printed and circulated throughout the national territory countless bulletins and posters – as well as postcards like the ones you see below, illustrated in the 1930s by Marcello Dudovich, in the “La Messaggera della Salute” series for Rome’s “Il Fauno”.
Dudovich fought against this terrible disease with the best weapons he had: talent and art.