Toxic metals in the bright colors favored by four great artists may have given them rheumatic diseases, according to a British medical weekly.

Peter Paul Rubens, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy and Paul Klee, who were fond of bright yellow, red, white, green, blue and violet paints, may have been heavily exposed to the toxic metals in them, said two Danish doctors in the June 4 issue of The Lancet.They said the metals could have caused the rheumatoid arthritis suffered by Rubens, Renoir and Dufy and the scleroderma, which leaves the skin hard and rigid, that affected Klee.

The doctors listed the metals as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead, antimony, chromium, tin, copper, cobalt and manganese.

"Exposure to these metals may be of importance in the development of inflammatory rheumatic diseases," said Dr. Lisbet Pedersen and Dr. Henrik Permin of the University Hospitals in Copenhagen.

Rubens lived from 1577 to 1640, Renoir 1841-1919, Dufy 1877-1953 and Klee 1879-1940.

The doctors said they reached their findings after examining paintings by the four artists and by eight others without rheumatic disease, who lived at the same times and who favored paler, earthier colors containing harmless iron and carbon compounds.