Schloss Amras, Innsbruck

I won’t forget Schloss Amras.  I can’t.  What you see there, won’t let go – a portrait of a man living with a spear through his right eye; portraits of the Hair People; an original portrait of Dracula.  And that is not all.  What kind of place is this?

Spear man

Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Dracula

This Castle, on the slopes of the mountain above Innsbruck, was established nearly 450 years ago by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595).  The assembling of curious objects at that time has made the collection rate as the oldest museum of its kind in the world.  Austrians cherish the place, which has a history from the 10th-century, as of their most valuable heritage, a monument to the rebirth of European culture, the Renaissance.

The skull of a reindeer whose horns got stuck in the bark of a tree, the unique collection of armour … the Hall of Art and  Wonders yields one surprise after the other.  The portrait of Dracula had me a touch skeptical, but the portrait of the Hair People were a revelation.

Der Haarmensch von Munchen

The Hair People – a father and his children – were hairy from head to toe, including their faces, making me think of coarse fur.  Pedro Gonzales, the father, was born in 1550 on Tenerife.

Rather formally he posed for the painter in 1580, so becoming a talking-point in Europe.  In the family portrait the mother is present,  smooth and hairless.   The formality of the portraits is striking, perhaps to counter centuries of myths and legends about the figure of the Wild Man in European folklore and elsewhere.

The Wild Man

It was the spirit of the Renaissance that made for the documenting of the phenomenon instead of a superstitious reaction that might well have led to a cruel eradication of “a sign of evil”.  With this particular case and with the various museum spaces at Amras we experience the convergence of science, conservation, appreciation and wonder.  Today there is a medical term drawn from the hair people which originates from Amras.

What would Darwin have said?


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



« Der Haarmensch von Műnchen » – internet-article

Wikipedia :  Castle Ambras

Encyclopédie des Symboles – “L’Homme Sauvage”

[Notice the variant spelling of Amras / Ambras.]



Schloss Ambras – Wikipedia

Vlad Tepes / Dracula – Pinterest

Spear man  – Pinterest

Haarmensch – formal portrait – Pinterest

Haarmensch – detail  –  Pinterest

L’homme sauvage – Encyclopédie des Symboles







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