"The Living Skeleton" 1825


United Kingdom

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"The Living Skeleton" 1825

A new paper cutting,, advertisement of Claude-Ambroise Seurat a freak show attraction from Troyes, France. He was known as "the anatomical man or the living skeleton" .Seurat was also the subject of an anatomical drawing of Francisco Goya after the Spanish painter met him in 1826 at a circus in Bordeaux.

Seurat's toured across Europe aroused controversy and because of the publicity, there was extensive interest in his life, particularly from the medical establishment. An account, for instance, cited that Seurat was born healthy and was normal like other children except for his depressed chest. By age 14, his health dwindled so that his frame already became skeletal in form. When he visited London for a tour in 1825, Seurat was described having normal height, being between 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m) and 5 ft 71⁄2 in (1.71 m), but with an emaciated body; at the time, he weighed 78 pounds (35.4 kg). The circumference of his upper arms was 4 inches, his waist was less than 2 feet (0.61 m) around, while his neck was short, flat, and broad. Later, in 1832, he was stated to have weighed 43 French pounds and was 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) tall. Seurat's last recorded performance was in 1833 at Dinan in Brittany. And apparently died in 1868

The newspaper cutting is dated Sunday, August 14th 1825 and some faint writing reading Bell's Life in London, which was a London newspaper and by repute "Bell's Life became Britain's leading sporting newspaper, without which no gentleman's Sunday was quite complete"

Housed later in Chinoiserie style frame, 37.5/15cm

The newspaper cutting depicts Seurat with the blurb reading

The public exhibition of this extraordinary being commenced on Thursday, in Pall Mall, and, as might have been expected, attracted a considerable number of visitors. The following account of his peculiarities is from the pen of a medical gentleman by whom he was visited for scientific purposes:-
“The name of this curious being is Claude Ambroise Seurat, born on the 10th of April, 1797, at Troyes, in Champagne. His mother was a woman of good health, and experienced neither fright nor accident during the term of parturition; so that no part of his malformation and consequent state can be accounted for by external causes. According to the statement of his father (the mother is dead), he presented nothing extraordinary in his appearance at the time of birth; though, in my own mind, I have no doubt but the same malformation was existent then, which is so apparent now. He continued growing until the usual term of life, and concomitant with that growth were his depletion and loss of muscular power. Upon entering the room, a stopping posture of sitting, attenuated hands, sunken eyes, and meagre face, tend strongly to impress the mind of the visitant with an idea, that he has just emerged from the couch of long continued illness. With regard to individual features, they are, however, perfect, and such, as, it lit by health and excitation, would afford a face of considerable attraction; his eye is dark and full, and the tunica conjunctiva of a beautiful whiteness; but the effect of this organ is rendered painful to the beholder, by that expression of anxiety and glaziness so generally observed in persons labouring under phthisis; his teeth are good, and his capability of mastication suited to his need, preferring for his diet that which calls for the least effort of the masticatory muscles.
“On Sunday last I was with him at the time of dining l, when he took soup (vermicelli, I believe) to about the amount of four table spoonful, eating the eight of a penny French roll with it; this, with the half of a small glass of cider, constituted the whole of his repast. He appeared anxious for the meal, but by the time he had eaten half the specified quantity, his appetite evidently decreased. He is able to feed himself by bending his head down halfway to the table, where the fore arm rests, but when requiring drink, his mother-in-law (who is most kindly attentive to him) must supply him, as he cannot raise the glass to mouth. His sleep is mostly sound and good, occasionally, only, interrupted by nightmare; his digestive powers seem quite efficient to the task assigned to them, and his state of body is regular. The pulse, whenever I have examined it, has been full and soft, and of a natural acceleration. On Sunday it was increased a few beats after his dinner. He converses in good french, and with considerable vivacity, appearing, however, exhausted of continued many minutes: he did not, according to his own account, experience the slightest inconvenience from sea-sickness, during the passage over: indeed, I almost doubt whether he has muscular power sufficient to eject the contents of the stomach; at any rate, the effort would be attended with great risk to himself. His general health they state to have been good, but he has laboured formerly (five years since) with a liver complaint, and also an attack of pleuritis. At present he is perfectly free from any bodily affection; though I much fear the inequities of temperature experienced in a English winter, and he frequent exposure he is threatened with by exhibition, will tend to produce disease of the lungs.


19th Century

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