Title: Profile of a human monster (Profilo di un mostro umano), Rylands Italian MS 63, plate 24
Place: Italy
Date: Eighteenth century
Medium & technique: Watercolour on parchment
Dimensions: 144 x 95 mm
Themes: Bodies – Inside & Outside / Monstrous – Marvellous
Collection: The John Rylands Library, (c) The University of Manchester

This image comes from an eighteenth-century Italian manuscript containing 54 images of monsters, human and/or animal. Images 23, 24 and 25 are all examples of monstrous births involving penises or breasts. Image 24 shows a child with a deformed head, jutting out of which are three penises two of which resemble deformed noses, although they are placed above the eyes. The placement of the penis-nose on the body of a child is uncomfortable but its very strangeness added to its interest as an object of medical research, or as a portent of events to come. The original image may date back to the early sixteenth century, and an engraving of a child with penis-noses was included in the 1634 edition of Fortunio Liceti’s De monstris. The image of a child with penis-noses in an early eighteenth-century collection of monstrous births demonstrates the enduring interest in these events even as the reasons for that interest changed. Read more about this object.

Cordelia Warr, University of Manchester

Further Reading:

Cordelia Warr, ‘“A series of fifty-four clever drawings on vellum”: Monstrous Births in Italian ms 63,’ The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 91/1 (2015), 57-80.