Maphoon, The Hirsute faced Woman of Ava, and her child
Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Watercolour with pen and ink of a portrait of Maphoon from 'A Series of Views in Burmah taken during Major Phayre’s Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855' by Colesworthy Grant. This album documents the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r.1853-1878). The mission travelled from Rangoon (Yangon) up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to the royal capital of Amarapura in central Burma (Myanmar). Grant was sent as official artist of the mission.
In 1826, John Crawfurd had also led British mission to Burma. At the court of Ava, he met Shwe-Maong and his young daughter Maphoon. Shwe-Maong was extremely hairy, most noticeably on his face. This condition is known today as congenital hypertrichosis langinosa. The first recorded case is that of Petrus Gonzales, who was born in the Canary Isles in 1556. In 1855, Maphoon was 31 years of age and had two male children. There are also several photographs of the family dating from the 1870s.
Grant wrote that: 'the infant, otherwise a very pretty child, is already exhibiting the peculiarities of his mother. A fringe of hair is seen across the forehead, a small quantity under the eyes, and from the ears large bunches of soft hair, full 3 inches long, are pendant. The features of the mother, unmasked from the hair, would evidently have formed a very comely woman. The mouth was very pretty; the expression of the eyes, near which the hair was fined off, exceedingly pleasing and gentle; whilst the modesty of her manners, and her affectionate tenderness and anxiety for her child, were altogether so womanly and amiable, that a short time was sufficient very greatly to remove the unpleasant impression which her appearance at first created.'