Jusepe de Ribera, Magdalena Ventura with Her Husband and Son, Bearded Lady
The painting was mentioned in various period diaries. All of the information known about Magdalena Ventura is derived from quotes and documents referring to the painting. Supposedly, Duke of Alcalá was moved to commission the painting based on rumors he heard about her. The stele claims that at the time of painting, she was 52, and began to show facial hair growth at 37. She had at least two other children, and was an Italian from the nearby region of Abruzzi. Magdalena likely helped or was the primary source of income through her facial hair, as the painting shows her with a long, untrimmed beard. This is stark contrast with her husband's more fashionably trimmed beard. The simple act of standing while nursing is also an unusual pose for 17th-century women, and was associated with accounts of strong African women nursing in unusual ways. Painting Magdalena Ventura in such a manner would've served to emphasize her "manliness" and strength.
The painting was a part of a gallery of portraits of people deemed "unusual," particularly of people with characteristics popular among travelling acts of the period, like dwarfism.
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