Posts Tagged ‘elephant man’

This Week’s Featured Artwork

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Portrait of Joseph Merrick

Joseph Carey Merrick (5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890)

Working as a sideshow freak, Merrick traveled to London for exhibition in a shop on Whitechapel Road managed by showman Tom Norman. Norman’s shop was directly across the street from the London Hospital and was frequented by the hospital’s medical students and doctors. One visitor, a surgeon named Frederick Treves, invited Merrick to the hospital to be examined and photographed.

It was later decided that Merrick would be allowed to stay at the hospital for the remainder of his life. Rooms were adapted for him in the basement of the hospital and he lived there for the next four years. Treves visited him daily and they developed quite a close friendship. Merrick also received visits from the wealthy ladies and gentlemen of London society.

Merrick died on 11 April 1890, age 27. The official cause of death was asphyxia, although Treves, who dissected the body, said that it was a dislocated neck. He believed that Merick—who had to sleep sitting up, due to the weight of his head—had been attempting to sleep lying down, to “be like other people”. Merrick’s skeleton was preserved and remains in the London Hospital. Although several theories abound, the exact cause of Merrick’s deformities remains a mystery.