Stephanus Blankaart (1650-1704) was a Dutch physician, medical researcher and author. One of Blankaart’s interests was unusual physical deformities, particularly those occurring in newborn children. Blankaart’s research in this field caught the attention of Russian emperor Peter the Great, who later assembled his own collection of deformed foetuses and body parts.
In a 1683 text, Blankaart recorded several cases of physical deformity he had encountered, including a ten-year-old boy covered in fish scales and another child with an ear growing in the middle of the forehead. He also recalled that a married woman in Amsterdam had given birth to two children who were:
“…otherwise healthy, but with the colours and features of a Moor [North African].”
According to Blankaart, the woman was treated by Nicolaas Tulp, another well-known physician. After some investigation Tulp offered an explanation for the woman’s coloured children: she kept a large statue of a naked Moor in her house and had often “gazed upon it”.