Francisco Lezcano, and Infanta Maria Teresa

Portraits by Velásquez of Francisco Lezcano (El Niño de Vallecas), 1636-38, The Prado, Madrid, and the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

"The Birthday of the Infanta" is a pianistic representation of the fatal infatuation of a court dwarf for a Spanish princess on the occasion of her twelfth cumpleaños. The composition is in A-B-A' form, with a wistful middle section depicting the dwarf's sufferings that starkly contrasts with the grotesquely animated party music with which the piece begins and ends. The harmonic material remains highly volatile throughout, although cadences intermittently clarify the overal tonal center of C-sharp major.

During the reign of Philip IV, little people were retained at the royal palace to serve and entertain the king and his family, as brilliantly depicted by the painter Diego Velásquez in numerous pictures. These diminutive comedians did much to alleviate the stiff formality of daily aristocratic life, although their privileged position could hardly have been just compensation for the ridicule to which they were routinely subjected as court jesters and buffoons.

Last updated June 17, 2003
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© Copyright 2001 by Joseph Dillon Ford