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An Unknown Renaissance Portrait of Tagliacozzi (1545–1599), the Founder of Plastic Surgery

Ménard, Sophie, BSc

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open: January 4, 2019 - Volume Latest Articles - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002006
Latest Articles: PDF Only

Summary: This article examines a recently discovered painting of a young scholar holding a reconstructed nose. Experts in ancient paintings have confirmed that the portrait is an authentic painting of the School of Bologna in Italy, from the last quarter of the Renaissance. In the 1580s, Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545–1599), a young professor in surgery and anatomy at the University of Bologna, Italy, was the only one to carry out reconstructions of the nose and other missing parts of the face. We have looked whether different relevant components of this painting, which is presented for the first time to the medical community, could match with Tagliacozzi’s life and achievements. We have also compared the portrait to another portrait of Tagliacozzi painted circa 1597, which belongs to the institute Rizzoli in Bologna, Italy. The latter depicts Tagliacozzi as an older established surgeon. He is seen presenting his illustrated book, De Curtorum Chirurgia per Insitionem (On the surgical restoration of defects), which is the first book devoted to plastic surgery. We have concluded that the young Renaissance scholar is Tagliacozzi. This portrait and the Rizzoli’s portrait represent Tagliacozzi at the beginning and at the peak of his professional involvement in the field of plastic surgery. Tagliacozzi is the first medical doctor to practice plastic surgery as well as write about it. He also taught plastic surgery for the first time in a prestigious Renaissance school of medicine. Tagliacozzi’s illustrated book of plastic surgery published in 1597, disrupted the contemporary medical community. For all these reasons, Tagliacozzi can be considered as the founder of plastic surgery. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 54, which put a term to the development of this field. Tagliacozzi’s work was rediscovered, 2 centuries later, by the English surgeon J.C. Carpue (1764–1846) during the revival of plastic surgery.

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CCBY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

From Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Published online 4 January 2019.

Received for publication August 5, 2018; accepted September 18, 2018.

Disclosure: The author has no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article. The Article Processing Charge was paid for by the author.

Sophie V. Ménard, BSc Yale College Class of 2019 Bachelors Statistics & Data Science 228 Park Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, E-mail:

Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All rights reserved.