The Nova Scotia Giantess
and the Lilliputian King
Pen and ink, 11 x 7 inches, 1999
Anna Swan was an exceedingly tall woman (7 feet 11½ inches by her sixteenth birthday) who exhibited herself with Phineas
T. Barnum in his celebrated American Museum. Her prodigious size was nearly the end of her during one of the several occasions on
which Barnum's museum caught fire, when she was unable to find an exit large enough to accommodate her. Luckily, Anna survived and went
on to perform for many more years.
It was on the sideshow that Anna met her husband, fellow giant Captain Martin Van Buren Bates (7 feet 9 inches). They had
quite a career touring as The World's Tallest Couple — claiming a combined height of more than fifteen feet! They later retired to
a specially built home in Ohio designed by Captain Bates himself to suit their scale.
It was Barnum's habit to contrast the very tall with the very small, so Anna frequently appeared with the so-called Lilliputian King or
whoever was the featured small person of the moment. I was struck by Anna's resemblance to the woman in Raphael's Portrait
of Maddalena Doni. For that reason I created a faux-Renaissance portrait with both Anna and her miniature monarch dressed in
appropriate period finery.
All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2003 - 2010