Barbara van Beck. Oil painting, ca. 1650.
- [approximately 1650]
Selected images from this work
About this work
Identified by comparison with 17th-century prints as a portrait of Barbara Ursler, born in Augsburg in 1629, portrayed half-length directed to right, with long brown prominent hair on the skin of her entire head. Names given to such conditions at various times include hypertrichosis, hirsutism and Ambras syndrome. She married a Dutchman, Johan Michael van Beck, who became her manager. Unlike the hirsute women who earned their living as courtiers alongside dwarfs and jesters, Barbara van Beck was exhibited internationally and became a celebrity through her travels. Her itinerary included London 1637 (where she was seen as a child by John Evelyn), Copenhagen 1639, Paris 1646, Rome 1647, Milan 1648, Augsburg 1653, Frankfurt 1655, London again 1657 (when she was seen again by Evelyn and portrayed playing the organ in an etching by Richard Gaywood), and Beauvais 1660. She disappears from the record in London in 1668, when she was seen by John Bullfinch, who wrote "This woman I saw in Ratcliffe Highway, in the year 1668, and was satisfied that she was a woman". (Ratcliffe Highway was the road later called The Highway, which links the City of London to Docklands.)
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