(active in 1590s)

The "Hairy Man from Munich"

Paper on cardboard, 13 x 10 cm
Ambras Castle, Innsbruck

Three small paintings in the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tirol portray Pedro Gonzalez and his two oldest children. The "hairy man from Munich", as he is called, is considered the first documented case of the so-called "Ambras Syndrome", a congenital illness, which results in the growth of hair on the face as well as the entire body after birth. The fate of the hair-covered members of the Gonzalez family is noted for its reputation as a natural wonder. They were considered animals, who were both marvelled at and presented as gifts. Father and son, at least, turned their condition to a certain prestige and material advantage.

Born around 1537 on the Canary Island, the hispanized and baptized Pedro was presented in his infancy as a gift to the French King, Henry II. The king arranged his marriage to Catherine who did not suffer from the syndrome. The portraits of the couple's two oldest children, Maddalena (born c. 1575) and Enrico (born c. 1580), who inherited their father's condition, are in the Archduke's collection.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.