Beyond Achondroplasia

Growing together with Clara

Achondroplasia in history and art

Short stature people have been known and identified throughout recorded history, appearing in ancient Egyptian art and Hindu tradition.

The past perception of achondroplasia is reflected in art, beginning about 2000 B.C.  Ancient Egyptians often used individuals with achondroplasia in their artwork, some dating back to 1500 BC. Achondroplasia is thought to have provided a model for the representation of a series of figures including the Egyptian god Bes, the Greek teller of fables Aesop, and the Renaissance giant of fiction Morgante. Since these figures were basically viewed as good, the hypothesis is advanced that achondroplasia was perceived as a positive, not a negative, condition during at least part of the past four millenia.

Egyptian God Bes

Egyptian God Bes

William Dugard describes Aesop as one whom “Nature had gratified with an ingenious mind, but the Law had enslaved.” He was endowed with a large head, bowed legs and a large belly. “His visage [was of] black hue.”

Aesop

Aesop

Morgante, painted by Bronzino, 1552

Morgante, painted by Bronzino, 1552

The painter, Diego Velazquez, did a series of paintings featuring individuals with achondroplasia in the 1600s.

This is a portrait of the Spanish royal family in 1656. The royal court included two ladies-in-waiting with dwarfism

This is a portrait of the Spanish royal family in 1656. The royal court included two ladies-in-waiting with dwarfism

Don Sebastian de Morra by Velasquez

Don Sebastian de Morra by Velasquez

At that time in history, short stature people were frequently forced to be a part of the royal court, serving as a jester or other entertainment due to their appearance.

A very interesting article: “Achondroplasia among ancient populations of mesoamerica and South America: Iconographic and Archaeological Evidence” by Rodríguez, Carlos ; Isaza, Carolina and Pachajoa, Harry, University of Colombia, 2012, reveals evidence of the condition in populations of the ancient Egypt (2500 BC) and ancient American populations.

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