The extraordinary case of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Dwarfism in combination with bone fragility

  • Nikolaos G. Markeas
  • Dimitrios Begkas
Keywords: Toulouse-Lautrec; dwarfism; bone fragility; osteogenesis imperfecta; osteopetrosis; pycnodysostosis


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a descendant of an aristocratic family from France, lived many years before the application of the achievements of genetics. Suffering from an illness unknown at the time, he was forced from an early age to isolate him self and unfold his unparalleled talent freely, without restrictions. His association with people living on the margins of society, along with his choice to immortalize everyday scenes from their lives on the canvas, compose the enigmatic puzzle of his character. At the same time, his habits, sexual preferences, alcohol addiction, and his premature death from syphilis are the reasons to start an in-depth investigation. The purpose of this study is to elucidate the deeper causes that guided the outlets of his art, at the same time that his short stature, combined with the fragility of his bones, trigger a variety of hypotheses surrounding an underlying inherited disease. Osteogenesis imperfecta justifies certain symptoms. Osteopetrosis involves clinical signs that were absent in Lautrec’s case. Pycnodysostosis, however, seems to fulfill the requirements to be unequivocally accused. Our main pursuit, however, is not so much the revelation of the disease from which the artist suffered, as the understanding of his art and the delight given by the correct reading of his works.


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Author Biographies

Nikolaos G. Markeas

Children’s Euroclinic of Athens

Dimitrios Begkas

Sixth Department of Orthopaedics, General Hospital “Asklepieion” Voula, Athens


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