Diego Velázquez painted a handful of portraits of the court jesters from the court of Philip IV, the king of Spain. Jesters existed in a terrifying limbo in the courts—people of low birth, often who suffered from physical disabilities that the royals considered amusing. In the case of this graceful gentleman, a jester named Pablo de Valladolid, his declamatory pose suggests that he was an actor, and most likely entertained the court by imitating characters from popular plays.
Velázquez's portraits are remarkable for their restraint, and this is a perfect example. A solid colored background and simple apparel throw the focus of the piece directly to the hands and face of the actor — his most expressive tools.