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18th century print of a disabled man

Thomas Inglefield (b1769). Image © Royal College of Physicians

Title on print: Thomas Inglefield Etching with stipple by unknown artist, 1804 Size: 17cm x 11.6cm Published: R S Kirby, London, 22 Dec 1804

Thomas Inglefield was born in 1769 in Hook in Hampshire, without hands and legs. He was an accomplished artist and engraver who worked by holding his drawing utensil between the stump of his left arm and his cheek and guiding it with the muscles of his mouth. Inglefield wrote that his missing limbs were caused by ‘maternal imagination’, that his mother had suffered a fright when she was pregnant with him. This was then a commonly held explanation for disability. Like many people exhibiting themselves in the 18th century, Inglefield showed himself privately – in rooms at 8, Chapel Street, off Tottenham Court Road, London. These prints would have been sold on the premises where he demonstrated his artistic skills to the public and presumably Thomas received a percentage of the profits.

**Penny Pepper, focus group participant:** ‘I've had a lot of discussion with artists in the Disability Arts Movement and this reminds me of a discussion with an artist … about how he has a belief that in terms of aesthetics … what’s very important is facial features and I would say Thomas is quite acceptable facially.’ **Colin Hambrook, focus group participant:** ‘ … he does look very reflective … and the confidence comes through that sense of reflectiveness … ’ Margaret Hughes, focus group participant: ‘I think this guy was a good businessman. He was an artist and … I don't think he felt himself being on display, [so much] as allowing people to come and watch him work in order to … sell his work. So I think he had a good business brain as well as being very artistic.’ Colin Hambrook, focus group participant: ‘In contemporary terms he reminds me of Alison Lapper. Although the interesting thing about Alison is [her sculpture] being on the [Trafalgar Square] plinth didn’t actually advance her visual arts career. It sort of made her a media icon for a while … I’d say [Thomas] has … control over his life and over the way that he's choosing to make his living and choosing to exploit his disability, to use his disability.’