Day 303: Portrait of Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, by Juan Carreño de Miranda

Juan Carreno de Miranda - La Monstrua

Day 303: Portrait of Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, by Juan Carreño de Miranda

At first glance, the portrait by Juan Carreño de Miranda (Spain, 1614-85) looks like a Photoshop job gone wrong, for the width of the body is disproportionate to the height of the figure. However, it represents a real-life person, Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, an obese six-year-old girl. For all the corseting and cascading folds of the brocaded crimson dress richly embroidered with gold, it cannot disguise the child’s girth as it pulls and stretches to envelop the girl’s body.

The portrait reflects a fascination among the Spanish courtly and aristocratic circles in people with physical or mental anomalies. More often than not, they were taken from humble backgrounds, adopted by and given employment at court, dressed at the height of Spanish fashions, and painted by the best artists of the era such as Carreño de Miranda and Diego Velázquez, whose works are also present in the Portrait of Spain exhibition at the QAG.

However, as these portraits – as well as the portrait of the Infanta Isabella by Alonso Sánchez Coello discussed previously – show, the presence of these characters as well as exotic animals at court was employed partly as entertainment but also to offset by comparison the visual perfection of the ruling elite, thus maintaining the hierarchical elevation and aristocratic ‘otherness’ of their caste. This penchant was soon adopted throughout the European courts, where society ladies offset their beauty by appearing at court – as well as in their portraits – with pugs or monkeys, and had themselves followed by page boys and servant girls of other races.

http://qagoma.qld.gov.au/ / http://www.museodelprado.es/


[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

1 Response to “Day 303: Portrait of Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, by Juan Carreño de Miranda”

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

October 2012


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