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A Vision Of Dwarfs

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the specific choice of a dwarf as portrait companion. It shows a portrait by Giacomo Vighi called L'Argenta of Carlo Emmanuele, duke of Savoy, circa 1570, as a 9- or 10-year-old, standing beside his mother's pet dwarf Fabio. The birth defect that resulted in Fabio's physical deformity was a disorder of bone growth, called achondroplasia, a genetic condition consisting in abnormally short stature, short arms and legs, and a proportionately larger head in which the forehead is prominent. Alonso Sánchez Coello's likeness, from the 1580s, depicting the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, daughter of Philip II of Spain, with the well known court dwarf Magdalena Ruiz holding monkey. Dwarfs' popularity as trastulli, playthings, in the Cinquecento was such that they were oft en exchanged between courts to lighten illness or dispel melancholy.

Keywords: dwarf; Fabio; L'Argenta of Carlo Emmanuele



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