Sometime around 1537, Petrus Gonzales was born on Tenerife with a rare genetic disorder that made hair grow all over his face and across his body. He was recognized as one of the “wild” or “dog-faced” men believed to exist at the outer reaches of the world, and was sent as a curiosity to the French court of Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici. There, he was raised as a courtier, married a smooth-faced woman and had at least seven children with her. Most of them shared his furriness and also became minor court celebrities, but eventually settled together in an Italian village and fell from historical record. Merry Wiesner-Hanks in The Marvelous Hairy Girls has now carefully reconstructed the story of the Gonzales family, and especially of the three hairy daughters, Maddalena, Francesca and Antonietta. Although the sources are sparse, they include evocative paintings and medical records; and Wiesner-Hanks makes the most of them by sensitively drawing out the attitudes behind the artistic, religious and scientific interest in the hairy family.
more from Bettina Bildhauer at the TLS here.