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Dr. François Carlo Antommarchi

Dr. François Carlo Antommarchi
Born 5 July 1780(1780-07-05)
Morsiglia, Corsica
Died 3 April 1838 (aged 57)
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Occupation Doctor of Medicine/Surgeon
Spouse(s) Never Married
Children None
Parents Juan Antommarchi and Bidgetta Matey

Dr. François Carlo Antommarchi (born on July 5, 1780 in at Morsiglia, a village near Cap Corse, in the extreme north of the Corsica island – 1838 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba began his studies in Livorno, Italy, and later earned the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine at the University of Pisa on March 1808. Antommarchi then went to Florence, Italy, and was attached to the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova.[nb 1] Antommarchi earned the diploma of Surgeon in 1812 from the University of Florence (i.e. Imperial University) and was appointed by its then president as Prosector. While in this capacity, Antommarchi worked under Paolo Mascagni (1752-1815)[1] starting on 7 July 1813.

Antommarchi left Florence for Saint Helena to become Napoleon Bonaparte I's physician until his death at the behest of Napoleon's mother Maria Letizia Ramolino and his uncle Cardinal Joseph Fesch.[2] Antommarchi received a letter of employment on 19 December 1818. Antommarchi was part of a team of physicians which included Dr. Barry Edward O'Meara, Dr. Alexander Baxter, and Dr. Francis Burton. However, Antommarchi was a trusted by Napoleon who though of Antommarchi's British counterparts as spies. After Napoleon's death, Antommarchi wrote The Last Moments of Napoleon where he concluded that Napoleon died of stomach cancer.

In 1831 Antommarchi went to Poland and became general inspector of Polish hospitals during November Uprising [3] where he assisted the Polish people in an uprising against the Russians. He fled to Paris to escape the czar's forces.

Antommarchi then immigrated to Louisiana where he donated the bronze death mask of Napoleon to the people of New Orleans in 1834. Antommarchi then lived in Veracruz, Mexico, for a brief period, and was employed there as an itinerant physician. Antommarchi moved from Mexico and settled in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, where he again worked as a physician. The move to Cuba was prompted by Antommarchi seeking his cousin Antonio Juan Benjamin Antommarchi[4], who made his fortune in cofe plantations. Antommarchi became adept at performing surgery for the removal of cataracts. Antommarchi died in Cuba, of yellow fever, in April 3, 1838, at the age of 57.[5]

Map of Corsica
Cap Corse is the peninsula at the north of the island.


Life Chronology

Event Place Date
Birth Morsiglia, Corsica, France 5 July 1780
Earned Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine Degree Pisa, Italy March 1808
Earned Surgeon Diploma Florence, Italy 1812
Became Prosector Florence, Italy 7 July 1813
Became Napoleon Bonaparte I's Physician Saint Helena, Corsica, France 19 December 1818
Arrived in Saint Helena[5] Saint Helena, Corsica, France 10 September 1819
Made the Death Mask of Napoleon Saint Helena, Corsica, France 7 May 1821
Published "Anatomical Prints of the Human Body with Natural Dimensions" Paris, France 1823
Published various books based on his diary of Napoleon's medical care 1823-1826
Became general inspector of Polish hospitals Poland 1831
Visited Louisiana Louisiana, United States 1834
Visited Veracruz Veracruz, Mexico June-July 1837[6]
Death Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 3 April 1838


"Death of Napoleon", by Charles de Steuben, 1828. Dr. Antommarchi is standing next to Napoleon with his hand on the pillow.[nb 2]
Death Masc of Napoleon, front view

Dissertation on cataract, 1808

This work is mentioned in The Memorial of Saint Helena by Emmanuel Augustin Dieudonné Joseph, comte de Las Cases.[7]

Death Mask of Napoleon, 1821

On 7 May 1821 Antommarchi took a plaster cast of Napoleon Bonaparte I's face. Numerous copies of this cast have been made and some can be seen at these locations:

Diary of Napoleon's Medical Care, 1823-1826

Antommarchi's diary contained detail records of his medical care for Napoleon. This diary is a source for numerous books published between 1823 and 1826. These books have been published in many languages including French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Anatomical Prints of the Human Body with Natural Dimensions, Paris, 1823

Paolo Mascagni (1752-1815) was the most celebrated anatomist of his day. Antommarchi became Prosector to Mascagni who left manuscripts and drawings for an intended publication of a comprehensive complete anatomy with life-size figures. Antommarchi prepared the publication but was meanwhile called to Saint Helena. Antommarchi left, taking with him three copies of Mascagni's plates. When Antommarchi returned, he published these plates, printed from lithographs, under his own name in a monumental work which appeared from 1823 to 1826 under the title of: "Planches anatomiques du corps humain exécutées d'après les dimensions naturelles accompagnées d'un texte explicatif".[16][17][18][19] The plates for the publication were drawn and possibly engraved by Antoine Seratoni.

Paolo Mascagni's anatomical drawing with Antommarchi's annotations.

Name Variants

François Carlo Antommarchi's original name has many variants in the literature due to translations and misspellings:

The phonetic pronunciation of "François" is "frahn-swah".[20]



The literature cites both 1780[2] and 1789[21] as the birth date of Antommarchi.

Death Mask of Napoleon

It is unclear if the original cast for the Death Mask of Napoleon made by Antommarchi survived. It is said that Antommarchi's cast failed but Dr. Francis Burton apparently took another cast which survived. To complicate matters, Madame Bertrand, apparently related to Henri Gratien and Napoleon Bonaparte I's attendant, is said to have stolen a large part of the cast taken by Dr. Francis Burton and gave it to Antommarchi.[22][23]

No unequivocal and decisive proof has ever been presented to settle this controversy and perhaps the world will probably never see it's resolution. It is important to keep an open mind and remember that possible motivations for this controversy, for both parties, can include but are not limited to:

  • Fierce rivalry between the conquerors, i.e. the British, and the conquered, i.e. the French
  • Profiteering
  • Fame Seeking

Right Hand Cast of Napoleon

Despite a post-mortem cast of Bonaparte's right hand, allegedly by Antommarchi, is sold[24] and exhibited in museums[25][26], none of the persons that were present in Saint Helena when Napoleon I died ever reported that such a cast occurred. On the contrary, his servant Louis-Étienne Saint-Denis (a.k.a "le mameluck Ali") regrets in his memoirs that nobody had the idea to cast Napoleon's hands.[27]

Mascagni Heirs

A legal dispute between Antommarchi and the heirs of Mascagni regarding the rights to Mascagni's plates was never resolved.[28][29][30]


  1. ^ Leonardo da Vinci studied anatomy at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova [1]
  2. ^ The "Death of Napoleon" painting is currently displayed at Musée de l'Armée in Paris, France.

See also


  1. ^ "Paolo Mascagni", The University of Iowa, 12 June 2006
  2. ^ a b Thomason, Henry D., "Napoleon, the First Emperor of France: From St. Helena to Santiago de Cuba. Being a Summary of Facts Concerning the Latter Days of Dr. François Antomarchi, the Last Physician to His Imperial Majesty", 1910 [2]
  3. ^ Sven Jonas Stille, Podróż do Polski, Warszawa 1985, p. 137.
  4. ^ Saby, Claude-Alain, "1815 Les naufragés de l'Empire aux Amériques", 2007 [3]
  5. ^ a b Reynolds, James, "Head and Upper Body", 2006
  6. ^ Garzón-Sobrado, Eduardo, "Speech at the historic restoration of the death mask of the Emperor Napoleon I to the people of Mexico in the Chapultepec Palace, 25 July 2005 [4]
  7. ^ De Las Cases, Emmanuel, "The Memorial of Saint Helena", 1823 [5]
  8. ^ Las Cases, Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonné, Napoleon, Antommarchi, Francesco, O'Meara, Barry Edward, Charlet, Nicolas-Toussaint, "Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène", 1842 [6]
  9. ^ Antommarchi, Francesco, "The last days of the Emperor Napoleon: By Doctor F. Antommarchi, His Physician. In Two Volumes.", 1825 [7]
  10. ^ Thomason, Henry D., Antommarchi, Francesco, "Napoleon, the First Emperor of France: From St. Helena to Santiago de Cuba. Being a Summary of Facts Concerning the Latter Days of Dr. François Antomarchi, the Last Physician to His Imperial Majesty", 1910 [8]
  11. ^ Napoleon, Gourgaud, Gaspard, Montholon, Charles-Tristan, O'Meara, Barry Edward, Las Cases, Emanuel Auguste Dieudonné Marius Joseph, Antommarchi, Francesco, "Memoirs of the History of France During the Reign of Napoleon" 1823 [9]
  12. ^ Antommarchi, Francesco, "The last days of Napoleon: memoirs of the last two years of Napoleon's exile", 1826 [10]
  13. ^ Antommarchi, Francesco, "Derniers momens de Napoléon, ou, Complément du Mémorial de Ste-Hélène: ou complément du mémorial de Ste-Hélène", 1825 [11]
  14. ^ Antommarchi, Francesco, "Mémoires du docteur Antommarchi, ou, Les derniers momens de Napoléon: ou Les derniers momens de Napoléon", 1825 [12]
  15. ^ Antommarchi, François, "Mémoires du docteur F. Antommarchi, ou Les derniers momens de Napoléon", 1825 [13]
  16. ^ Antommarchi, Francesco C., "Anatomical Prints of the Human Body with Natural Dimensions", 1826 [14]
  17. ^ Antommarchi, Francisco, "Prodromo della grande anatomia seconda opera pstuma di Paolo Mascagni, posta in ordine, e poblicata a spese di una Societa innominata da Francisco Antommarchi", 1819
  18. ^ Antommarchi, Francisco, "Tavole figurate di aalcume porti organiche del corpo umano degli animali e dei vegetablii, esposte nel prodromo della grande anatomia di Paolo Mascagni", 1819
  19. ^ Moodie, Roy L., "Anatomical Names with Biographical Sketches", 1917
  20. ^ "English Pronunciation Guide to the Names of People, Places, and Stuff", inogolo [15]
  21. ^ Gourdol, Jean-Yves, "Francesco Antommarchi 1789 - 1838. Physician Napoleon in Saint Helena", [16]
  22. ^ "Napolean's death mask", National Museums Liverpool
  23. ^ "Mystery of Napoleons Death Mask", The New York Times, 15 April 1915
  24. ^ "Historical: Hand of Napoleon Bonaparte", Designs Toscano
  25. ^ "Napoleon, Prisoner - Post-mortem: The reliquaries", 2006
  26. ^ "The Arcole Napoleonic Museum", [17]
  27. ^ Saint-Denis, Louis-Étienne (Mameluck Ali); Bourachot, Christophe (2000). Souvenirs sur l'empereur Napoléon. Paris: Arléa. p. 277. ISBN 978-2-86959493-7. "Il est très fâcheux que l'on n'ait pas pensé à mouler les mains, lesquelles cependant étaient assez belles pour être conservées." 
  28. ^ Choulant, Ludwig, Mortimer, Frank, Fielding, Hudson G., Streeter, Edward C., "History and bibliography of anatomic illustration in its relation to anatomic science and the graphic arts", 1852 [18]
  29. ^ Knight, Charles, "Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge: Second supplement", 1858 [19]
  30. ^ Eimas, Richard, "The Great Anatomy of Paolo Mascagni", 1963

External links


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