11749

PORTRAIT OF AN ARMLESS MUSICIAN AND PERFORMER, PROBABLY REPRESENTING JOHN VALERIUS (B. 1667)

Continental. First Quarter Of The Eighteenth Century.

Measurements

Sight size: Height: 20 1/2" (52.1 cm); Width: 14 1/2" (36.8 cm). Framed: Height: 28" (71.1 cm); Width: 22" (55.9 cm).

Research
Of red chalk on paper. Depicting an armless man seated on a table, playing a trombone held at his shoulder and striking a drum with drumsticks held by each of his feet, with a pistol on the table beside him.

This large and remarkable drawing depicts a fashionably dressed man displaying his various performative talents, in spite of living with the rare condition of Amelia syndrome, a birth defect in which one or more limbs is missing. He is shown seated on a table, playing a trombone held at his shoulder and striking a drum with drumsticks held by each of his feet. There is also a pistol laying on the table beside him.

All of these attributes suggest that this impressive sitter may be John Valerius (b. 1667), also known as Johann Kleyser. Born in the Upper Palatinate in Germany in 1667, Valerius was born without hands or arms and had only a thumb protruding from his right shoulder. “When bereaved of his parents and friends, by death, [he] had no other means to depend on for subsistence than the exhibition of his person.”1 He became adept at many arts using only his feet and traveled to several countries to demonstrate his unique appearance and skills. He published a series of sixteen prints that depicted his many talents with descriptions of each feat, and often sold these prints with annotations as well as samples of writing completed with his feet. With the adopted name of Valerius, which derives from Latin meaning strength or health, he was in all likelihood making a statement made about his fitness and ability despite his physical limitations.

Footnotes
1. Caulfield, James. Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters, of Remarkable Persons,: From the Revolution in 1688 to the End of the Reign of George II. Collected from the Most Authentic Accounts Extant. United Kingdom, H.R. Young, … and T.H. Whitely, 1819. 158.

Full research report available on request.

 

Full research report available on request.