Today’s Flexible Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Niccolò Paganini (October 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. He owed much of his gift to a genetic disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. People with EDS cannot make much collagen, a fiber that gives ligaments and tendons some rigidity and toughens up bone. The benefit of having less collagen is circus flexibility. Like many people with EDS, Paganini could bend all his joints alarmingly far backward. But collagen does more than prevent most of us from touching our toes: a chronic lack can lead to muscle fatigue, weak lungs, irritable bowels, poor eyesight, and translucent, easily damaged skin. Modern studies have shown that musicians have high rates of EDS and other hyper-mobility syndromes (as do dancers), and while this gives them a big advantage at first, they tend to develop debilitating knee and back pain later, especially if, like Paganini, they stand while performing.
The Great Paganini
Constant touring wore Paganini down after 1810, and although he’d just entered his thirties, his body began giving out on him. Despite his growing fortune, a landlord in Naples evicted him in 1818, convinced that anyone as skinny and sickly as Paganini must have tuberculosis. He began canceling engagements, unable to perform his art, and by the 1820s he had to sit out whole years of tours to recuperate. Paganini couldn’t have known that EDS underlay his general misery; no doctor described the syndrome formally until 1901. But ignorance only heightened his desperation, and he sought out quack apothecaries and doctors. After diagnosing syphilis and tuberculosis and who knows what else, the docs prescribed him harsh, mercury-based purgative pills, which ravaged his already fragile insides. His persistent cough worsened, and eventually his voice died completely, silencing him. He had to wear blue-tinted shades to shield his sore retinas, and at one point his left testicle swelled, he sobbed, to the size of “a little pumpkin.” Because of chronic mercury damage to his gums, he had to bind his wobbly teeth with twine to eat.
Sorting out why Paganini finally died, in 1840, is like asking what knocked off the Roman Empire – take your pick. Abusing mercury drugs probably did the most intense damage, but Dr. Bennati, who knew Paganini before his pill-popping days and was the only doctor Paganini never dismissed in a rage for fleecing him, traced the real problem further back. After examining Paganini, Bennati dismissed the diagnoses of tuberculosis and syphilis as spurious. He noted instead, “Nearly all his later ailments can be traced to the extreme sensitivity of his skin.” Bennati felt that Paganini’s papery EDS skin left him vulnerable to chills, sweats, and fevers and aggravated his frail constitution. Bennati also described the membranes of Paganini’s throat, lungs, and colon – all areas affected by EDS – as highly susceptible to irritation. We have to be cautious about reading too much into a diagnosis from the 1830s, but Bennati clearly traced Paganini’s vulnerability to something inborn. And in the light of modern knowledge, it seems likely Paganini’s physical talents and physical tortures had the same genetic source.
Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb
And tomorrow we’ll examine Paganini’s equally tortured afterlife…
Morbid Trinket Du Jour!
C. M. Adams sent me a link to a delightful new coloring book that is being released October 4 that may interest those of you with such proclivities!
The Beauty of Horror: A Goregeous Coloring Book
Welcome to art therapy for the abnormal. With this coloring book for adults channeling The Walking Dead meets The Secret Garden, comics creator/rock star Alan Robert (Crawl to Me, Killogy, Wire Hangers) invites fans of horror to discover their inner-colorist. Through intricate pen and ink illustrations to complete, color,and embellish, readers will meet an onslaught of severed heads, monsters, deadly weapons, and skeletal remains.
Visit burial grounds, the zombie apocalypse, serial killer lairs, and gruesome torture chambers. Horror fans and newcomers alike will welcome this GORE-geous and creative journey into a blood-soaked new world.