Maddalena, Antonietta and Francesca Gonsalus were celebrated in sixteenth-century Europe for their extreme hirsutism (excessive hairiness), a condition inherited from their father who was captured as a child on the Canary Islands and brought to the French court of Henri II.
Portraits of Maddalena and her family hang in Ambras Castle, giving rise to the name Ambras Syndrome. Maddalena also appears in the compendium Monstrorum historia by naturalist Ulisee Aldrovandi (1522–1605), a zoological compendium by Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel (1542–1600) and a miniature commissioned by Rudolph II of Austria. In 2009, the sisters became the subject of the biography, The Marvelous Hairy Girls, by Merry Weisner-Hanks.
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