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Diego Velázquez and the Jester’s Smile Mystery


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez painted the portrait of one Calabazaz, Royal Court Jester to King Philip, around the year 1631. ( Calabazaz’ portrait hangs in the Cleveland Museum of Art.)

It may strike one as familiar: It appears at first to be a portrait of the young Prince Philip. The resemblance is daringly in Velázquez’ brushwork on the lower lip. The King’s minor deformity left him with a permanent lithp; that Calabazaz appears to be mimicking the King’s physiognomy is daring enough in the subject, but one would think potentially suicidal in the artist.  Is the appearance purely coincidental?  Indeed, is there any similarity at all?

Your host thinks the similarity genuine and rather deliberate. Velázquez was nothing if not subtle and powerful.

The King’s portrait of 1624 hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

. . .

Diego de Velázquez: Portrait of Jester Calabazaz, ca. 1631

Diego de Velázquez: Portrait of Philip IV, ca. 1624

2 Comments leave one →
  1. bobbelvedere permalink
    2010/07/28 23:59

    If true, that was the definition of bold.

    • 2010/07/29 00:20

      Hey Bob – too, it was no small portrait. Something like 4′ x 7′, sure to be hung in a public venue.

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