The subject of this painting is based on a portrait by Hans
Holbein. However, the subject here is not some member of the
court of Henry VIII but rather a cheerful microcephalic, or "pinhead"
as they are known in show lingo.
Pinheads were often favorite and staple performers on the sideshow
circuit for their diminutive size, strange appearance, and child-like
manner. The tiny cranium was accentuated by shaving the head
and leaving a small tuft of hair at the top — a look that was
later adopted by Bert of Sesame Street. Several pinheads
were featured as characters in director Tod Browning's infamous
film Freaks (1932). The most famous of these
performers was Schlitzie, who worked on the sideshow platform
well into his seventies.
This pinhead wears a charming rabbit-bedecked frock
as an homage to the squirrel held by the sitter in Holbein's
painting. I tried a squirrel pattern at first, but somehow the
bunnies seemed more fitting.
[To see more drawings from this series, please visit the Prodigies