Andreas Vesalius frontispiece portrait


The only portrait known to have been personally authorized and approved by Vesalius himself, this appears as the frontispiece of three of his works: the 1543 edition of the Fabrica , the 1546 Letter on the China Root, and the 1555 revision of the Fabrica. The anatomist is demonstrating tendons of the flexor muscles of the hand, which Galen had considered one of nature's masterpieces and unique to human anatomy. Carved into the edge of the table is Vesalius' age (28) at the time he completed the Fabrica, and the year (1542). The book was published in June of the following year. The rich costume and the architectural setting are no doubt fanciful, but perhaps not the peculiar anatomical proportions of Vesalius himself, which he seems to be calling to our attention. The head is disproportionately large, the forearm and hand too short; the chest and abdomen are strangely prominent, while the outline of his buttock near the bottom corner of the drawing seems posteriorly displaced. Moreover, the height of the anatomist, measured against the table at which he is working, is extremely short. These dimensions are in strong contrast to those of the cadaver whose hand he is dissecting. Is Vesalius calling attention to a common type of dwarfism (hypochondroplasia) in his personal anatomy?

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