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Bronzino’s Claw Hand

Allen, Nicholas Peter Legh MFA, MA, MTh, PhD, DPhil, Laur. Tech. FA

doi: 10.1097/NRL.0000000000000257
Original Articles

Background: Lancet recently published an article concerning a work of art by Bronzino (1503-1572). Apart from incorrectly identifying Bronzino as a Renaissance artist, Vein and Mouret (2018) make an extraordinary medical claim based on their observation of the artistic image of the left hand of the sitter in Bronzino’s Mannerist Portrait of Bartolomeo Panciatichi (1540s). In short, seemingly without even a basic understanding of the tenets of Mannerist painting or the specifics of Bronzino’s enormous oeuvre, Vein and Mouret (2018) claim that Bronzino’s subject, Bartolomeo Panciatichi (1507-1582) was suffering from “a unilateral ulnar pathology.”

Methods: The author analyses the image of Bartolomeo Panciatichi from an art historical perspective involving both formal analysis and stylistic analysis.

Results: The specific portrayal of Panciatichi’s “claw hand” is more correctly a product of creative genius, designed to elicit an emotional response of “disquiet” from the informed spectator.

Conclusion: There is in fact no portrayal of a unilateral ulnar pathology. If it were, then it means that many of Bronzino’s subjects suffered from exactly the same condition.

Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Correspondence to: Nicholas Peter Legh Allen, MFA, MA, MTh, PhD, DPhil, Laur. Tech. FA, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa. Email:

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