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Jesters and Advisers to Monarchs: Famous Medieval Dwarfs on the Canvases of Court Artists
Jesters and Advisers to Monarchs: Famous Medieval Dwarfs on the Canvases of Court Artists
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Famous dwarfs of Medieval Europe

Dwarfs in Medieval Europe they were very popular, and love for them at the Italian courts bordered on mania: the clans Ferrari, Visconti, Medici kept a huge number of them at court. The Spanish court of King Philip numbered more than a hundred dwarfs, and the French court of Catherine de Medici - about 80. The court artists, depicting monarchs, did not forget about their favorites. They treated little people with special sympathy and, depicting them on their canvases, showed sincere sympathy for them. The story of the double portrait of a nude midget Morgante by the Flemish Agnolo di Cosimo is quite impressive, which is described later in the review.

"Courtyard of Mantua". (1471-74) Author: Andrea Mantegna

An indispensable attribute of the royal courts of medieval Europe were jesters and dwarfs, who served as fun for nobles and kings. Moreover, their role in the ruling courts and aristocratic families was extremely important.

Andrea Mantegna. "Courtyard of Mantua". (1471-74) Fragment. Author: Andrea Mantegna

So, the dwarf jesters could say what they wanted and when they wanted - that was their privilege. They were close and overly loyal to their masters, so they got away with all their antics and speeches, not always disingenuous and filled with caustic sarcasm. There were dwarfs who performed other duties as well. So, for example, some were ringer, others were blowing horns at tournaments, and still others were actors and musicians. And some of them served as pages, messengers, attorneys, and sometimes they had to be spies to prevent all sorts of intrigues.

The history of the double portrait

"Double portrait of the dwarf Morgante." Author: Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino)

A very interesting story is the double portrait painted by the Florentine painter Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino) (1503-1572), the Medici court painter. The portrait depicts a nude dwarf named Morgante, the most famous of the five dwarfs at the Medici court at Palazzo Pitti. He appeared at the court of Cosimo I Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, around 1540.

The dwarf had an extraordinary mind, was educated and overly kind. Like most small people, he suffered from congenital chondrodystrophy. After 15 years of service, Morgante was blessed with a title of nobility, land and the right to marry. In addition, the dwarf was extremely devoted to his master and therefore he was given the honor of accompanying him on diplomatic trips. However, despite all his privileges, Morgante was regularly subjected to humiliation of all kinds and even physical violence.

"Portrait of the dwarf Morgante". (Part 1). Author: Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino)

In the portrait of the Florentine Bronzino, the thought can be traced: "even if he is a freak and a jester, but he is a man!" And the very interpretation of the image in a double image is interesting because the artist showed: painting, like sculpture, can show an object from different points of view.

"A dwarf named Morgante." Author: Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino)

However, in its original form, this portrait existed for about two centuries. And in the 18th century, by order of the guardians of morality, the figure of Morgante was bashfully sketched with grape leaves and bunches, "which turned him into the likeness of Bacchus."

"Portrait of the dwarf Morgante." (Part 2). Author: Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino)

It was only in 2010 that Italian restorers returned the canvas to its original appearance. We see the magnificent dwarf Morgante, depicted in all his masculine glory, both from the front and from the back. On one side of the painting "he poses with a hunting owl, and on the other side the hunter clutches a trophy - captured birds".

Dwarfs by Diego Velazquez and other European artists

"Meninas". Author: Diego Velazquez

As a court painter at the Spanish court, Velazquez painted portraits of dwarfs on several occasions. At the turn of the 1630s-1640s, he created a famous series of works dedicated to little people "offended" by nature. However, on not a single portrait we see a shadow of mockery, disgust, or excessive sympathy - only genuine tenderness and sympathy is visible, which does credit to the author.

"Portrait of the court dwarf don Sebastian del Morra." Author: Diego Velazquez

The most impressive of Velazquez's "gallery of freaks" is considered to be the portrait of the dwarf Sebastian de Morra, in whose gaze one can see so much strength and dark despair. Sebastian suffered from osteochondrodysplasia, as a result of which the growth of cartilage and bone tissues was disrupted in his body. But the mental and sexual abilities of the dwarf were outstanding. Based on eyewitness accounts, de Morra was an unusually intelligent, ironic man, distinguished by "phenomenal physical strength and love."

"Court dwarf Francisco Lescano". Author: Diego Velazquez

The dwarf of the court Francisco Lescano is an unhappy man suffering by all indications - Down's disease. It belonged to Prince Balthazar Carlos and died at the age of 22.

El Primo. Author: Diego Velazquez

The dwarf depicted with a book in his hands, nicknamed El Primo, being highly educated, held a position at the royal chancellery, wrote poetry. And El Primo is also mentioned in a dramatic story in which a jealous husband killed his wife for a love affair with him.

"A courtier dwarf with a dog." Author: Diego Velazquez "Prince Balthazar Carlos with the dwarf." Author: Velazquez Diego Dressed Dwarf Eugenia Martinez Vallejo (1680). Author: Juan Caregno de Miranda "Dwarf Eugenia Martinez Vallejo nude". (1680). Author: Juan Caregno de Miranda "Karlitsa Ignacy". Author: Ignacio Zuloaga "Portrait of a dwarf with the Great Dane Raro". Author: Karel van Mander "Portrait of a dwarf". (1616). Author: Juan van der Amen "Dwarf Micho". Author: Juan Carreno de Miranda "Stanislav, the dwarf of Cardinal Granvela." (1560) Author: Antonio Moro

From century to century, small people are still born on earth. You can learn about the amazing story of the Lilliputian family Ovitz, who became famous not only for her acting talent, but also miraculously survived in a concentration camp during the years of the Holocaust of the Jews. in review.

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