Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism

In a wood engraving, the embalmed body of a woman is displayed in a decorated glass case inside a gallery. Her body is hairy and posed in a dress with a tight corset. Well-dressed visitors walk through the gallery and observe her body. A caption reads: "Miss Julia Pastrana, the embalmed nondescript, exhibiting at 191 Piccadilly."

Title: Julia Pastrana, a bearded woman, embalmed


Date: 1862

Source: Wellcome Collection

Copyright/Permissions: Julia Pastrana, a bearded woman, embalmed. Wood engraving, 1862. Public Domain Mark

References: Herzig, Rebecca M. “Bearded Women and Dog-Faced Men: Darwin’s Great Denudation.” In Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, 55-74. NYU Press, 2015.

Location(s): Picadilly, London, England, UK

Commentary: Julia Pastrana was a woman from Mexico whose hairy face and body made her a popular attraction to carnivals and freak shows in the mid-1800s. People, like Pastrana, who were considered abnormally hairy by the Euro-American public were displayed and publicised as sub-human examples of the “missing-links” proving Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This wood engraving was printed after Pastrana’s death to publicise the exhibition of her embalmed body in a gallery in Piccadilly, London in 1862.

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