Kathleen Gilje
Portrait of the Dwarf Diego De Acedo, called El Primo, Restored
2004
Oil on linen
43 x 32
Velazquez’s beautiful and sensitive painting Portrait of the Dwarf Don Diego de Acedo, “EL Primo”, was called “El Primo” because, unlike the other dwarfs of the Spanish court who were entertainers and servants, the king respected Don Diego for his intellect. To show this Velazquez painted the dwarf surrounded by books and writing materials

For my painting, Portrait of the Dwarf Don Diego de Aceda, “El Primo”, Restored, I changed the original by undressing El Primo. Taking away the period dress and revealing him creates the sense of timelessness and vulnerability. The smallness of the dwarf’s nude stature becomes even more exaggerated juxtaposed against the gigantic book.

The accompanying ceramic wall sculpture, Small Hands/Big Book, is inspired by imagery in the painting. The small childlike hands resting on the large book are a metaphor for human frailty and the strength and power of knowledge.

I was trained as a conservator of old master paintings at the Museo de Capodimonte, Naples, Italy and my work as a fine artist reflects this experience.

The original painting by Velazquez, ca1636-38, is in the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.
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