Magdalena Ventura with her husband and child


Magdalena Ventura with her husband and child
(1631; Toledo, Museo Fundación Duque de Lerma)
   Painted by Jusepe de Ribera for the Duke of Alcalá, Viceroy of Naples, who was fascinated by Magdalena Ventura, a resident in the city cursed with a heavy beard. In the painting, Magdalena stands next to her husband and suckles one of her many children, her breast predominantly displayed to denote her ability to bear and nurture children in spite of her condition. A long inscription on the stones stacked to the right speaks of her situation and hails her as "a miracle of nature." Above the stones are the spindle and distaff, implements used for weaving and considered signs of domesticity and female virtuosity. Though a depiction of what some would classify as a freak of nature, Ribera depicted the woman in all her dignity. The work speaks of the interest in the Spanish court and its territories in the rarities of nature and the desire to record them.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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