François Carlo Antommarchi

Dr François Carlo Antommarchi

Dr François Carlo Antommarchi
Born (1780-07-05)5 July 1780
Morsiglia, Corsica
Died 3 April 1838(1838-04-03) (aged 57)
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Occupation Doctor of Medicine/Surgeon
Spouse(s) Never married
Children None
Parent(s) Juan Antommarchi and Bidgetta Matey

Dr François Carlo Antommarchi (born 5 July 1780 in Morsiglia, Corsica – d. 1838 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba) was Napoleon's physician from 1818 to his death in 1821.

He began his studies in Livorno, Italy, and later earned the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine at the University of Pisa in March 1808. Antommarchi then went to Florence, Italy, and was attached to the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova.[nb 1] Antommarchi earned the diploma of Surgeon in 1812 from the University of Florence (i.e. Imperial University) and was appointed by its president as Prosector. While in this capacity, Antommarchi worked under Paolo Mascagni (1752–1815)[1] starting on 7 July 1813.

Antommarchi left Florence for Saint Helena to become Napoleon I's physician until his death. Antommarchi took up this position at the behest of Napoleon's mother Maria Letizia Ramolino and his uncle Cardinal Joseph Fesch.[2] Antommarchi received a letter of employment on 19 December 1818. Antommarchi was sent to St. Helena in replacement of Dr Barry Edward O'Meara as Napoleon's personal physician, because the illustrious captive would not agree to accept medical officers such as Dr Alexander Baxter or Dr James Roch Verling, who were proposed to him by his custodian, or "gaoler", sir Hudson Lowe. However, Napoleon was not so impressed by Antommarchi's medical skills and even dismissed him from his service a couple of times, only to let him resume his duty soon after. In the last moments of illness, Antommarchi was assisted by Dr Archibald Arnott, who was accepted by Napoleon at the pressing demands from his two officers, Count Montholon and Grand-Marshal Bertrand.[3] After Napoleon's death, Antommarchi wrote The Last Moments of Napoleon where he concluded that Napoleon died of stomach cancer.

In 1831 Antommarchi went to Poland and became the general inspector of Polish hospitals during November Uprising[4] where he assisted the Polish people in an uprising against the Russians. He fled to Paris to escape the czar's forces.

Antommarchi then immigrated to Louisiana where he donated the bronze death mask of Napoleon to the people of New Orleans in 1834. Antommarchi lived in Veracruz, Mexico, for a brief period, and was employed there as an itinerant physician. He moved from Mexico and settled in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, where he again worked as a physician. The move to Cuba was prompted by Antommarchi seeking his cousin Antonio Juan Benjamin Antommarchi,[5] who made his fortune in coffee plantations. Antommarchi became adept at performing surgery for the removal of cataracts. He died in Cuba, of yellow fever, on 3 April 1838, at the age of 57.[6]

Life chronology

Event Place Date
Birth Morsiglia, Corsica, France 5 July 1780
Earned Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine Degree Pisa, Italy March 1808
Earned Surgeon Diploma Florence, Italy 1812
Became Prosector Florence, Italy 7 July 1813
Became Napoleon I's physician Saint Helena, Corsica, France 19 December 1818
Arrived in Saint Helena[6] Saint Helena, Corsica, France 10 September 1819
Made Napoleon's Death Mask Saint Helena, Corsica, France 7 May 1821
Published "Anatomical Prints of the Human Body with Natural Dimensions" Paris, France 1823
Published various books based on his diary of Napoleon's medical care 1823–1826
Became general inspector of Polish hospitals Poland 1831
Visited Louisiana Louisiana, United States 1834
Visited Veracruz Veracruz, Mexico June–July 1837[7]
Death Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 3 April 1838


"Death of Napoleon", by Charles de Steuben, 1828. Dr Antommarchi is standing next to Napoleon with his hand on the pillow.[nb 2]
Death Mask of Napoleon, front view

Dissertation on cataract, 1808

This work is mentioned in The Memorial of Saint Helena by Emmanuel, comte de Las Cases.[8]

Napoleon's Death Mask, 1821

On 7 May 1821 Antommarchi took a plaster cast of Napoleon's face. Numerous copies of this cast have been made and some can be seen at these locations:

Diary of Napoleon's Medical Care

Antommarchi's diary contained detail records of his medical care for Napoleon. This diary is a source for numerous books published between 1823 and 1826. These books have been published in many languages including French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Anatomical Prints of the Human Body with Natural Dimensions, Paris, 1823

Paolo Mascagni (1752–1815) was the most celebrated anatomist of his day. Antommarchi became Prosector to Mascagni who left manuscripts and drawings for an intended publication of a comprehensive complete anatomy with life-size figures. Antommarchi prepared the publication but was meanwhile called to Saint Helena. Antommarchi left, taking with him three copies of Mascagni's plates. When Antommarchi returned, he published these plates, printed from lithographs, under his own name in a monumental work which appeared from 1823 to 1826 under the title of: "Planches anatomiques du corps humain exécutées d'après les dimensions naturelles accompagnées d'un texte explicatif".[25][26][27][28] The plates for the publication were drawn and possibly engraved by Antoine Seratoni.

Paolo Mascagni's anatomical drawing with Antommarchi's annotations.

Name variants

François Carlo Antommarchi's original name has many variants in the literature due to translations and misspellings:

The phonetic pronunciation of "François" is "frahn-swah".[29]



The literature cites both 1780[2] and 1789[30] as the birth date of Antommarchi.

Napoleon's death mask

It is unclear if the original cast for the death mask of Napoleon made by Antommarchi survived. It is said that Antommarchi's cast failed but Dr Francis Burton apparently took another cast which survived. To complicate matters, Madame Bertrand, apparently related to Henri Gatien Bertrand and Napoleon's attendant, is said to have stolen a large part of the cast taken by Burton and given it to Antommarchi.[31]

No unequivocal and decisive proof has ever been presented to settle this controversy and it may never be resolved. Possible motivations for this controversy, for both parties, can include but are not limited to:

Right Hand Cast of Napoleon

Despite a post-mortem cast of Bonaparte's right hand, allegedly by Antommarchi, sold[32] and exhibited in museums,[33][34] none of the persons that were present in Saint Helena when Napoleon died ever reported that such a cast occurred. On the contrary, his servant Louis-Étienne Saint-Denis (a.k.a. "le mameluck Ali") regrets in his memoirs that nobody had the idea to cast Napoleon's hands.[35]

Mascagni Heirs

A legal dispute between Antommarchi and the heirs of Mascagni regarding the rights to Mascagni's plates was never resolved.[36][37][38]


  1. Leonardo da Vinci studied anatomy at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova
  2. The "Death of Napoleon" painting is currently displayed at Musée de l'Armée in Paris, France.


  1. ""Paolo Mascagni", The University of Iowa, 12 June 2006". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  2. 1 2 Thomason, Henry D., "Napoleon, the First Emperor of France: From St. Helena to Santiago de Cuba. Being a Summary of Facts Concerning the Latter Days of Dr. François Antomarchi, the Last Physician to His Imperial Majesty", 1910
  3. see Chronology of Napoleon's last months of illness
  4. Sven Jonas Stille, Podróż do Polski, Warszawa 1985, p. 137.
  5. Saby, Claude-Alain, "1815 Les naufragés de l'Empire aux Amériques", 2007
  6. 1 2 "Reynolds, James, "Head and Upper Body", 2006". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  7. Garzón-Sobrado, Eduardo, "Speech at the historic restoration of the death mask of the Emperor Napoleon I to the people of Mexico in the Chapultepec Palace, 25 July 2005
  8. De Las Cases, Emmanuel, "The Memorial of Saint Helena", 1823
  9. "Louisiana Purchase". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  11. "The Art Institute of Chicago: Home: Under Construction". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  12. "North Carolina Collection-Napoleon Death Mask". 27 May 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  13. "Instituto Napoleónico México-Francia". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  14. "Museo Nacional De Historia". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  15. "Document sans nom". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  16. "St. Louis Mercantile Library". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  17. Las Cases, Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonné, Napoleon, Antommarchi, Francesco, O'Meara, Barry Edward, Charlet, Nicolas-Toussaint, "Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène", 1842
  18. Antommarchi, Francesco, "The last days of the Emperor Napoleon: By Doctor F. Antommarchi, His Physician. In Two Volumes.", 1825
  19. Thomason, Henry D., Antommarchi, Francesco, "Napoleon, the First Emperor of France: From St. Helena to Santiago de Cuba. Being a Summary of Facts Concerning the Latter Days of Dr. François Antomarchi, the Last Physician to His Imperial Majesty", 1910
  20. Napoleon, Gourgaud, Gaspard, Montholon, Charles-Tristan, O'Meara, Barry Edward, Las Cases, Emanuel Auguste Dieudonné Marius Joseph, Antommarchi, Francesco, "Memoirs of the History of France During the Reign of Napoleon" 1823
  21. Antommarchi, Francesco, "The last days of Napoleon: memoirs of the last two years of Napoleon's exile", 1826
  22. Antommarchi, Francesco, "Derniers momens de Napoléon, ou, Complément du Mémorial de Ste-Hélène: ou complément du mémorial de Ste-Hélène", 1825
  23. Antommarchi, Francesco, "Mémoires du docteur Antommarchi, ou, Les derniers momens de Napoléon: ou Les derniers momens de Napoléon", 1825
  24. Antommarchi, François, "Mémoires du docteur F. Antommarchi, ou Les derniers momens de Napoléon", 1825
  25. Antommarchi, Francesco C., "Anatomical Prints of the Human Body with Natural Dimensions", 1826
  26. Antommarchi, Francisco, "Prodromo della grande anatomia seconda opera pstuma di Paolo Mascagni, posta in ordine, e poblicata a spese di una Societa innominata da Francisco Antommarchi", 1819
  27. Antommarchi, Francisco, "Tavole figurate di aalcume porti organiche del corpo umano degli animali e dei vegetablii, esposte nel prodromo della grande anatomia di Paolo Mascagni", 1819
  28. Moodie, Roy L., "Anatomical Names with Biographical Sketches", 1917. Google Books. 21 November 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  29. "English Pronunciation Guide to the Names of People, Places, and Stuff", inogolo
  30. Gourdol, Jean-Yves, "Francesco Antommarchi 1789 – 1838. Physician Napoleon in Saint Helena",
  31. ""Napolean's death mask", National Museums Liverpool". Retrieved 10 October 2010. and ""Mystery of Napoleons Death Mask", The New York Times, 15 April 1915". New York Times. 15 August 1915. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  32. ""Historical: Hand of Napoleon Bonaparte", Designs Toscano". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  33. ""Napoleon, Prisoner — Post-mortem: The reliquaries", 2006". Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  34. "The Arcole Napoleonic Museum",
  35. Saint-Denis, Louis-Étienne (Mameluck Ali); Bourachot, Christophe (2000). Souvenirs sur l'empereur Napoléon. Paris: Arléa. p. 277. ISBN 978-2-86959-493-7. Il est très fâcheux que l'on n'ait pas pensé à mouler les mains, lesquelles cependant étaient assez belles pour être conservées. line feed character in |quote= at position 76 (help)
  36. Choulant, Ludwig, Mortimer, Frank, Fielding, Hudson G., Streeter, Edward C., "History and bibliography of anatomic illustration in its relation to anatomic science and the graphic arts", 1852
  37. Knight, Charles, "Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge: Second supplement", 1858
  38. "Eimas, Richard, "The Great Anatomy of Paolo Mascagni", 1963". 3 November 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2010.

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