The Controversial Skeleton of Ulrich von Hutten: An Additional Note Pertaining to Syphilitic and Identification Matters

Michael Habicht, Francesco M Galassi, Joachim Schleifring, Andreas G. Nerlich

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

Abstract

To the Editor:
In 2018, Riccomi and Giuffra1 reported on the portrait of the German humanist, chevalier, and theologian Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523) suffering from syphilis. He can be regarded as the first European patient to be known to have suffered from that disease and to have written about his own illness. Von Hutten's description of his ailments proves so rich and clinically detailed that he is rightly considered the best-known post-Columbian syphilitic.1 Although the portrait by Holbein the Younger clearly depicts skin lesions suggestive for syphilis, not all historians agree on the identification of Portrait of a Young Man as a representation of Ulrich von Hutten in the year of his death. The portrait shows a young adult, and interpretative problems exist with the character's clothes. Other representations of Ulrich von Hutten, particularly on his deathbed (Figure2), are considerably different. Hutten's disease, which is often referred to in French as Jeune Lépreux (the Young Leper),3 may have presented variably, although we acknowledge that "leprosy" was an umbrella term for many cutaneous conditions in the past. Finally, the osteological reference to the Hug 1971 study4 appears problematic in the light of newly published anthropological information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e190-e192
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Volume136
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Keywords

  • Ulrich von Hutten
  • syphilis
  • skeleton

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