Barbara Ursler ("Ursula Dyan") - biography and image
Van Beck, Mrs. Michael, Barbara, née Ursler, called Ursula Dyan b. 1629. bearded lady, harpsichordist.
14 Dec 2017, 3:32 a.m. - Terry Foreman
'High-status' portrait of bearded woman bought by Wellcome Collection
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On 15 September 1657 the diarist John Evelyn had a conversation with an intelligent, cultured German woman, dressed in the height of fashion, who played beautifully to him on the harpsichord. She also had “a most prolix beard, & mustachios, with long locks of haire growing on the very middle of her nose, exactly like an Island Dog.”
The Wellcome Collection in London has acquired a remarkable portrait painted a few years before their meeting, which shows Barbara van Beck exactly as Evelyn described her: composed, dignified, wearing a beautiful and expensive low-cut grey silk dress, with a lace collar tied with a scarlet bow, and more ribbons in her hair which was, Evelyn wrote, “neatly dress’d … of a bright browne & fine as well dressed flax”.
Samuel Pepys, Evelyn’s contemporary and friend, also met a bearded woman in London in 1668. Some historians believe it was the same person, but McShane thinks this was another woman with a different condition. The diarist described her as “a little plain woman, a Dane, her name Ursula Dyan, about 40 years old, her voice like a little girl’s, with a beard as much as any man I ever saw, as black almost and grizzly”. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/dec/14/high-status-portrait-of-bearded-woman-bought-by-wellcome-collection
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.