I have read with great interest the article by Weisz et al. titled ‘‘Who was Pontormo’s Halberdier? The evidence from pathology’’. At the beginning, the authors compare the left hand of Pontormo’s Halberdier with the hands in three paintings accepted as portraits of Cosimo I de’ Medici and correctly declare that the position of the left hand with the second and third fingers pressed together and the first and fourth fingers separated from the two central ones ‘‘occurs very frequently in Renaissance art, in the works of many different painters, and must be understood as a stylistic feature rather than the representation of a deformity in the model’’. This observation is confirmed by many portraits of the Medici, male and female, performed by different court painters in the course of the sixteenth century, from Pontormo to Bronzino, Allori, Vasari, Macchietti, Pulzone etc. up to Sustermans. Subsequently, however, in order to conclude that Cosimo I de’ Medici is the person depicted, the authors change their minds, consider the position of the fingers as result of an angry juvenile arthritic disease, and speculate that ‘‘like many other members of the Medici family, he had a genetic predisposition to joint problems’’, suggesting juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. On the basis of these considerations, the authors propose identification of the ‘‘Portrait of a Halabardier’’ as Cosimo I de’ Medici at the age of about 18. As further possible proof, the authors exhibit an X-ray of Cosimo’s left hand, taken during his exhumation in the course of the ‘‘Medici Project’’ I personally directed from 2004 to 2006, which would reveal a ‘‘significant deterioration of the PIP joint of the index finger precisely the joint that appears most swollen in the left hand of Pontormo’s Halberdier’’. Unfortunately, accurate examination of the small bones of hands revealed no sign of erosive arthritis but only post-mortal damages. The rachis of Cosimo shows diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), with severe degenerative arthritis of the column and appendicular skeleton. Finally, the comparison of the X-ray published in the article with the anatomic reconstruction of Cosimo’s hands performed in 2004 shows clearly that the X-rayed hand is the right, not the left, thus making really any identification of Pontormo’s Halberdier impossible, on the basis of the left hand in the picture. Therefore, on the basis of these considerations, the identification of the Portrait of a Halabardier as Cosimo I de’ Medici, together with the presumed articular pathology of Cosimo I, should be reconsidered.
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