This essay examines the representation of dwarfs in Italian Renaissance court imagery, principally in works that are portrait-like in nature and that highlight their bodily deformations. While such renderings offered evidence of the artist's virtuosity in depicting unusual physiognomies, I suggest that court artists went beyond mere verisimilitude, deliberately accentuating and exploiting the dwarf's distinctive anatomical deficiencies, whether through juxtapositions with well-proportioned bodies, or as singular expressions of corporeal irregularity. This investigation also delves into the fluctuating and at times contradictory nature of the Italian Renaissance mentalité, which viewed dwarfs—in life as in art—as both repellant and yet attractive, and alternatively as benign, potent, and/or comical. For however much negativity was ascribed to their deformed stature, the presentation of the dwarf's body in court imagery had equally positive implications, providing pleasure for the viewer, bestowing prestige on the princely patron, and evoking amazement for the dwarf as Nature's own marvel.

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