Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Induction and Reception of Dignity in Diego Velázquez’s Portraits of Court Dwarfs

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2020), 14, (2), 187–202.

Abstract

The article analyses three single portraits of court dwarfs by Spanish court painter Velázquez (1599–1660). From the 1960s onwards, the verdict of art historical evaluation and ekphrasis (the literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art) has been that of a dignified representation, a notion of the artist granting the sitters a dignity society allegedly denied them. The article analyses how that impression is achieved in each of the three portraits and—given the fact that their art historical evaluation up until the late 1950s has been much less favourable—comes to the conclusion that a viewer’s verdict on the portraits is always affected and influenced by the current take society has on disability and disabled people and is detached from the actual intention of the artist and the sitters’ situation in the time of origin. The unfavourable verdicts of centuries past can thus be explained. Hence, the impression of a dignified representation stems—for the most part—from the ideals of a modern society dealing with disabled people in a respectful, empathizing manner.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works Cited

Adelson, Betty M. The Lives of Dwarfs. Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social Liberation. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2005. Print. Google Scholar

Brown, Jonathan and Carmen Garrido. Velázquez: The Technique of Genius. New Haven: Yale UP, 1998. Print. Google Scholar

Camón Aznar, José. Velázquez. Vol. 2. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1964. Print. Google Scholar

Edgar, Andrew. “Velázquez and the Representation of Dignity.” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 6 (2003): 111–21. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies. Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Ed. Sharon L. Snyder, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2002. 56–75. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Staring: How We Look. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Google Scholar

Gerstenberg, Kurt. Velazquez. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1957. Print. Google Scholar

Häßler, Günther and Frank Häßler. Geistig Behinderte im Spiegel der Zeit. Vom Narrenhäusl zur Gemeindepsychiatrie. Stuttgart: Thieme, 2005. Print. Google Scholar

Hussain, Shuman T. Homo empathicus. Versuch einer evolutionären Anthropologie der Empathie. Bonn: Habelt, 2013. Print. Google Scholar

Jogler, Saskia. Selbstreflexion im Narrenspiegel. Die Hofnarrenporträts von Diego Velázquez. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2013. Print. Google Scholar

Jones, Jonathan. “Portrait of the Week: Velázquez’s Dwarf Sitting on the Floor (c. 1645).” The Guardian: Saturday Review. 13 Apr. 2002. Web. 2 May 2018. Google Scholar

Justi, Carl. Diego Velazquez und sein Jahrhundert. Bonn: Max Cohen & Sohn, 1888. Print. Google Scholar

Kant, Immanuel. Practical Philosophy. Trans. and ed. Mary J. Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. Print. Google Scholar

Knackfuß, Hermann. Velazquez. 4th ed. Bielefeld and Leipzig: Velhagen & Klasing, 1900. Print. Google Scholar

Lipps, Theodor. “Ästhetische Einfühlung.” Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane 22 (1900): 415–50. Print. Google Scholar

López-Rey, José. Velázquez’ Work and World. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968. Print. Google Scholar

López-Rey, José and Odile Delenda. Velázquez. Sämtliche Werke. Cologne: Taschen, 2014. Print. Google Scholar

McCrudden, Christopher. “On Portraying Human Dignity.” Human Dignity in Context. Explorations of a Contested Concept. Ed. Dieter Grimm, Alexandra Kemmerer, and Christoph Möllers. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2018. 25–55. Print. Google Scholar

Meyerhöfer, Dietrich. “Kleinwuchs in der Kunst.” Kleine Menschen: Große Kunst. Kleinwuchs aus künstlerischer und medizinischer Sicht. Ed. Dietrich Meyerhöfer, Alfred Enderle, and Gerd Unverfehrt. Hamm: Artcolor/Eggenkamp, 1992. 13–17. Print. Google Scholar

Nordenfelt, Lennart. “The Concept of Dignity.” Dignity in Care for Older People. Ed. Lennart Nordenfelt. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 26–53. Print. Google Scholar

Petrat, Gerhardt. Die letzten Narren und Zwerge bei Hofe: Reflexionen zu Herrschaft und Moral in der Frühen Neuzeit. Bochum: Winkler, 1998. Print. Google Scholar

Portús, Javier, ed. Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces From the Prado. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 2012. Print. Google Scholar

Pritchard, Erin. “Cultural Representations of Dwarfs and Their Disabling Affects on Dwarfs in Society.” Considering Disability (2017). Web. 2 Apr. 2019. Google Scholar

Roncero López, Victoriano and Esther Cadahía. “The Court Jester in 16th and 17th Century Spain: History, Painting, and Literature.” South Atlantic Review 71.1 (2007): 93–110. Print. Google Scholar

Siedell, Daniel A. Who’s Afraid of Modern Art? Essays on Modern Art and Theology in Conversation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2015. Print. Google Scholar

Thompson, Sue, Tom Shakespeare, and Michael Wright. “Disability and Identity Across the Life Course: the Restricted Growth Experience.” Medische Anthropologie 22.2 (2010): 237–21. Web. 21 Aug. 2019. Google Scholar

Tietze-Conrat, Erika. Dwarfs and Jesters in Art. London: Phaidon Press, 1957. Print. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Derksen, Maximilian