A Pinhead for H.H.
Pen and ink, 9.5 x 7.5 inches, 1998
Collection of Samantha Hewit Fruchtman
The subject of this painting is based on a portrait by Hans
Holbein. However, the subject here is not some member of the
English court but rather a cheerful microcephalic, or "pinhead"
as they are known.
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 the character Bert on 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 (Simon Metts), who worked on the sideshow platform
well into his seventies, though was always referred to as “she”.
This pinhead wears a charming rabbit-bedecked frock as an homage to the squirrel held by
the lady in the Hans Holbein painting that served as inspiration. I tried a squirrel pattern at first, but the bunnies seemed more fitting.
All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2003 - 2010