Carl Herman Unthan - Armless Amputee

 

Carl Herman Unthan. Born in 1848, Unthan became known as the 'armless violinist of Leipzig', and was also accomplished in many other activities. He went on to appear in the Danisch film version of Gerhardt Hauptmann's novel 'Atlantis' (August Blom, 1913), and in the German film 'Der mann ohne arme' (also 1913). His autobiography, 'Das Pediskript', was published in 1925. He died in 1929, in Berlin.

A complete cartoon about him...

Carl Herman Unthan (5 April 1848 1929) was a Prussian-born violinist who was born without arms.

Unthan's father was a teacher who insisted he not be "coddled". Whether this was the reason or not, Carl reportedly could feed himself at two and around the age of ten is said to have taught himself to play the violin by strapping it on to a stool. He was sent to a music conservatory at 16 and graduated a couple of years later.

 

By the age of 20 Unthan was performing to full concert halls. He would go on to perform notably in Vienna with classical orchestras. He began with personal concerts and later added additional tricks to his repertoire. During his maiden performance he broke a string; he replaced it and tuned the new string using only his toes. After this it is said he would deliberately weaken one string before each performance so that it would snap during his recital, giving him an opportunity to repeat his dexterity. He was also a marksman who could shoot the spots out of a playing card with a rifle operated by his feet. He toured Cuba, Mexico, South America, and Europe. Later he married Antonie Neschta, whom he had toured with for a time. He moved to the United States and eventually gained citizenship.



Carl Herman Unthan as Arthur Stoss in "Atlantis" (1913)

At the age of 65, Unthan appeared in the Danish silent film Atlantis which includes a passenger liner sinking during a voyage. The author of the original story, Gerhart Hauptmann, had been impressed by Unthan during a cross-Atlantic voyage and was inspired to write the character of Arthur Stoss, an armless virtuoso, based upon him. Hauptmann's contract with the Danish filmmakers stipulated that only Unthan could play the character.

In 1925, Unthan published an autobiography, Das Pediscript (instead of manuscript because he had typed it with his feet, pedally, as opposed to manually). It was published in English in 1935, six years after his death.

There is an oblique reference to Unthan in the dialogue of Charles Chaplin's film Limelight, which takes place in the early twentieth century while Unthan was still performing.

He was born on 5 April 1848 in Germany.

Unthan's father was a teacher who insisted he not be "coddled". Whether this was the reason or not, Carl reportedly could feed himself at two and around the age of ten is said to have taught himself to play the violin by strapping it on to a stool. He was sent to a music conservatory at 16 and graduated a couple of years later.

By the age of 20 Unthan was performing to full concert halls. He would go on to perform notably in Vienna with classical orchestras. He began with personal concerts and later added additional tricks to his repertoire. During his maiden performance he broke a string; he replaced it and tuned the new string using only his toes. After this it is said he would deliberately weaken one string before each performance so that it would snap during his recital, giving him an opportunity to repeat his dexterity. He was also a marksman who could shoot the spots out of a playing card with a rifle operated by his feet. He toured Cuba, Mexico, South America, and Europe. Later he married Antonie Neschta, whom he had toured with for a time. He moved to the United States and eventually gained citizenship.
 

 

At the age of 65, Unthan (credited as Charles Unthan) appeared in the Danish silent film Atlantis which includes a passenger liner sinking during a voyage. The author of the original story, Gerhart Hauptmann, had been impressed by Unthan during a cross-Atlantic voyage and was inspired to write the character of Arthur Stoss, an armless virtuoso, based upon him. Hauptmann's contract with the Danish filmmakers stipulated that only Unthan could play the character.

He died in 1929 in Berlin, Germany.