Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Christina Neilson

Committee Member(s)

James Paul Hansen
Catherine B. Scallen


Diego Velazquez, Golden Age Spain, Philip IV, Spain, Portraiture, Court portraits, Early modern, Baroque, Disability, Disability studies


This paper analyzes the role of the disabled body in Golden Age Spanish court portraiture, focusing in particular on Diego Velázquez's work for Philip IV. Although this body of work has been examined extensively, few scholars have investigated what it implies about 17th-century Spaniards' conception of human divergence, and fewer still have done so without falling back on outdated models of disability. I thus hope to demonstrate through this thesis both disability's continued cultural importance and the utility of an analysis grounded in contemporary disability theory. Expanding upon Tobin Siebers' concept of "disability aesthetics" and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's theory of "misfitting," I seek to determine what purpose the disabled body served for portraitists like Velázquez and patrons like Philip IV, as well as how visual representations of disabled subjects helped shape broader Spanish understandings of the borders of normalcy and who "fits" in their social and physical environments. I ultimately argue that the disabled body uniquely enabled Spanish artists and patrons to communicate ideas about the court, the monarchy, and the inner-workings of their own bodies and minds that they could not otherwise express.