Event Title

Destierro and Desengaño: The Disabled Body in Golden Age Spanish Portraiture

Presenter Information

Colin Sanborn, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 237

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2019 2:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2019 3:20 PM

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to examine the role of the disabled body in Golden Age Spanish art through a focus on 17th-century portraiture. Given the proliferation of disabled jesters and servants in the royal courts, I primarily examine the work of court painters like Diego Velázquez. Although the interest that Velázquez and his contemporaries had in representing subjects we would now consider disabled is well-documented, few scholars have investigated the implications this has for how they engaged with evolving ideas regarding bodily/mental (im)perfection, and fewer still have done so without falling back on outdated models of disability. I therefore hope to demonstrate through my own research both disability’s continued cultural importance and the utility of an analysis grounded in contemporary disability theory. My aim is to determine how portraitists’ engagement with these subjects helped shape emergent understandings of “disability” in Golden Age Spain, as well as what the disabled body enabled them to express in the first place. I ultimately argue that contemporary ideas about knowledge and imagination, the social milieu of Philip IV’s court, and a baroque fascination with the grotesque combined to grant disabled bodies unique symbolic significance.

Keywords:

disability, art, portraiture, representation, early modern

Notes

Session IV, Panel 8 - Reframing | Margins

Moderator: Christina Neilson, Associate Professor of Baroque and Renaissance Art History and Chair of Art History

Major

Art History

Award

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

Advisor(s)

Farshid Emami, Art History

Project Mentor(s)

Christina Neilson, Art History

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Apr 27th, 2:00 PM Apr 27th, 3:20 PM

Destierro and Desengaño: The Disabled Body in Golden Age Spanish Portraiture

King Building 237

The purpose of this research is to examine the role of the disabled body in Golden Age Spanish art through a focus on 17th-century portraiture. Given the proliferation of disabled jesters and servants in the royal courts, I primarily examine the work of court painters like Diego Velázquez. Although the interest that Velázquez and his contemporaries had in representing subjects we would now consider disabled is well-documented, few scholars have investigated the implications this has for how they engaged with evolving ideas regarding bodily/mental (im)perfection, and fewer still have done so without falling back on outdated models of disability. I therefore hope to demonstrate through my own research both disability’s continued cultural importance and the utility of an analysis grounded in contemporary disability theory. My aim is to determine how portraitists’ engagement with these subjects helped shape emergent understandings of “disability” in Golden Age Spain, as well as what the disabled body enabled them to express in the first place. I ultimately argue that contemporary ideas about knowledge and imagination, the social milieu of Philip IV’s court, and a baroque fascination with the grotesque combined to grant disabled bodies unique symbolic significance.