VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
(b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)

The Dwarf Francisco Lezcano, Called "El Niño de Vallecas"

Oil on canvas, 107 x 83 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

During the 1630s and 1640s Velázquez painted a series of portraits of the courtdwarfs, playmates of the royal children, for they interested him as character studies.

For his pictures of the fools and dwarfs Velázquez often chose the format of a rectangle coming down close to the head, within which the figures crouch as if in a compact, closely circumscribed world; an example is the portrait the Dwarf Francisco Lezcano, painted by Velázquez around 1643-1645 as a retarded boy of fifteen. It was a burlesque piece that formed part of the decoration of the Torre de la Parada. The feeble-minded dwarf, dressed in green, is lovingly caressing the playing cards he holds. His bloated, over-large features are almost monumental, and a curious beauty plays over the face of the hydrocephalic dwarf.