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The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2017
Owen Farrel, the Irish Dwarf
CRE HULETT, J; (English; d. 1771) AFTER GRAVELOT, Hubert Francois; (French; 1699-1773)
printed in black
40.3 x 26.2
"Hulett Sculp."; "Gravelot del"; "Owen Farrel the Irish Dwarf. He was born in the county of Caven, & in ye year 1716, was footman to a colonel at Dublin: afterwards - / was carried about for a show, being but 3 feet 9 inches high, yet so surprisingly strong, that he could carry - / 4 men, 2 sitting astride on each Arm, and perform several other feats of Strength; at / last he came to London, where he begged about the streets: some time before his death / he sold his Body to Mr Omrod a Surgeon for a weekly allowance, who after his Death / made a Skeleton of his Bones, which is now in the Museum of hi Grace the Duke of RICHMOND. / To Cromwell Mortimer M.D. Fellow of the College of Physicians / Secretary of the Royal Society London, etc. / This plate is inscribed / Publish'd May ye 27th 1742. According to Act of Parliament. Price 1s by his humble Servt. James Hulett
From the founder, Dr William Hunter's collection, this engraving of 'Owen Farrel, the Irish dwarf' is inscribed with a touching obituary that marks him as a famous London character. The public had unlimited curiosity in looking at dwarves and giants, and men of science did not properly understand their growth abnormalities. Human curiosities were regularly the subject of papers given at the Royal Society in the early 1740s when Hunter was first attending, and anatomists made it their business to investigate their bodies after death John H. Appleby, 'Human Curiosities…' (Jan 1996). Hunter first delivered a paper (on cartilages) to the Royal Society on 2 June 1743, attending as the guest of Dr Mortimer who is named as dedicatee of this engraving.
We learn from the detailed inscription to this print that a surgeon called Omrod gave Farrel a gentlemanly alternative to public appearances at fairs, providing him with a weekly allowance in exchange for his body at death. His skeleton having passed to the museum of another naturalist and fellow of the Royal Society, the Duke of Richmond, it was then acquired by Hunter some time after the Duke's sale in 1751. With the exception of the foot, which remains, the skeleton had disappeared from the Hunterian before Professor John Teacher catalogued the anatomical collections in 1900. From the Duke of Richmond's collection Hunter also acquired a painting of Farrel, attributed to Joseph Highmore.
Covent Garden was, and is, a stage on which London's humanity strolls. It is natural that Gravelot - himself a local resident - should show Farrel walking here, the scene used by Hogarth in 1738 for his engraving Morning from the Four Times of the Day. It might have amused Hunter that this image of Farrel shows him standing outside the entrance to No 1 The Great Piazza, Covent Garden, which housed the Hunter brothers' anatomy school from 1749-1760.
DWARF : DOG : CANE : COVENT GARDEN : LEATHERJACK : ANATOMY : HUNTER 2007 : FARRELL :