Water Seller of Seville
The man who sold water on the streets of Seville was a very popular figure in Velasquez’s era. Recollections of Flemish and mainly Caravaggio’s paintings whose style was well-known in Spain because of the artists who had spent long apprenticeships in Italy, contributed to the construction of this provocatively realistic scene. The old man, with his wrinkled face and torn clothing, has the dignity of the foreground invested with a light that fixes the gesture of extending the glass to the youth in an almost ritualistic stillness. A clever use of chiaroscuro give the objects - the jug on the left with its protrusions and recesses, the jar in the foreground and the glass -an almost vehement consistency.
Old Woman Frying Eggs
Velázquez painted this picture – one of his most famous bodegones the same year that he married the daughter of his teacher, Francisco Pacheco. The genre, an interior scene of everyday life, dominated his Sevillian output, as he was interested in the faithful reproduction of the natural rather than a quest for “ideal beauty.” The action is frozen in time: the boy looks towards the viewer as he holds a rough melon in his right hand and extends a carafe of wine (or perhaps oil?) to the old woman who, in turn, is captured as she holds a wooden spoon.
Portrait of Philip IV in Armor
This is a fragment of a larger painting that was destroyed by fire in 1734. Francisco Pacheco recalled that Velázquez painted it shortly after his move to Madrid when he was appointed “pintor del rey”. The painting, displayed in the Calle Mayor opposite the church of San Felipe, met with the approval of the court experts and the envy of older artists who were troubled by the twenty-four year Velasquez’s professional and social success. By softening the irregularities of his king’s face the artist gave him the detached and stately air of a superior being, king by divine right. He would continue portraying the king in this way for thirty years, recording changes in his face and mood that had become dark because of military and political problems and the many deaths in his family. With respect to other contemporary portraits, dominated by dark tones, this one is distinguished by a certain liveliness of color that heralded the formal successes of his Italian sojourn.
Velázquez spent about one year in Italy between 1629 and 1630. He probably painted this self-portrait in Rome and upon his return to Spain proudly gave it to his father-in-law and teacher, Pacheco. The painting that is the size of a wall mirror is surprising because of its emotional intensity and gives us the picture of a determined man who proudly claims his place in the world. The comparisons with Titian’s last self-portraits, especially in the “blurry” rendering and the reduced color range reveals the role that the Venetian painter played in Velasquez’s artistic development. The two-thirds Self-Portrait in the Uffizi is an immediate revision of this painting, probably with the hand of some his helpers, but it does not have the same expressive immediacy.
Portrait of the Infanta Doña Maria
In the autumn of 1630, while he was in Naples, Velázquez painted this portrait of the sister of Philip IV who had been married to the king of Hungary by proxy and passed through Italy on her way from Madrid to Vienna. The sittings for the portrait almost certainly took place in the studio of the by then renowned painter, Ribera. The picture of the twenty-four year old Maria, who was definitely not as homely as the other Spanish Habsburgs, is distinguished by expressiveness and pride. Her face, barely veiled by make-up and framed by her blond curls, stands out luminously, while her clothes, rendered with broad, summary fluid brushstrokes remain in the shadows.
Prince Baltasar Carlos with a Dwarf
In January 1631 Velázquez was back in Madrid after his trip to Italy. He immediately received the commission to paint the portrait of the long desired male heir to the throne who was just two years old and the new focus of the entire court. The artist portrayed the child prince on a raised platform, amidst purple rugs and drapes – being revered by his subjects. He displays the symbols of power: a baton, a little sword and plumed hat. The dwarf, parody of a woman and child, dressed according to court etiquette, softens the awkwardly solemn tone of the composition. The easy brushstrokes filled with bright, sumptuous colors reveals the adoption of Titian’s “manner” that had also be revisited by Pietro da Cortona and – with greater original – by Van Dyck.
Portrait of Pope Innocent X
Velázquez painted this, one of his most successful portraits, on the occasion of his second journey to Italy (1649-1651). This canvas combines a most complete and original exercise in life painting (another extraordinary document is the contemporary Portrait of Juan de Pareja), with the personal reflections on the greatest Renaissance examples of this genre (Titian’s portrait of the Farnese pope, Paul III, and Raphael’s rendering of Julius II). In a triumph of changing purplish reds, and whites that range from full-bodied transparent, the artist presents the surly look of the pope whom he had met in Spain between 1626 and 1629; the pontiff had been described by contemporaries as despotic and irritable. The sittings were probably held in the summer of 1650 not too long after the artist had been accepted in the Accademia di San Luca and among the Virtuosi of the Pantheon.
Portrait of the Infanta María Teresa
Many portraits of royals were commissioned as gifts to send to various European courts and especially the Habsburgs in Vienna who were closely related to the reigning house of Spain. On 17 December 1653 the Venetian ambassador to Madrid, Querini, reported the shipment of two portraits of Infanta María Teresa to Austria and Flanders in prospects of a marriage. Velázquez painted this one, definitely a prototype on which he had his helpers work, at least one year before. The girl, portrayed in her best dress at the age of fourteen, with make-up on her face, presents herself as an idol, a porcelain figurine immobilized in a strained pose.
This is Velasquez’s most famous painting of all: it was considered the summa of all his works from the moment it was completed. The scene is set in the painter’s studio at the court, while Velázquez is at work on a large canvas, intent on painting the Infanta Margarita and her retinue of ladies and dwarfs. The unexpected arrival of the king and queen, whom the artist brilliantly places in the same position as the viewer – as we can in the image reflected in the mirror in the background – interrupts the sitting and everyone, from the painter to the princess, to the gentlemen who moves to the luminous doorway, practically bows to the monarchs, that is to the audience. The seventeenth century penchant for switching reality and make-believe is interpreted with exquisite skill: Velázquez (both artist and viewer) is painting exactly what we see. Even his manner of rendering the subjects with touches of fluid color and pasty splotches suggests the shapes rather than drawing them. The king had this painting hung in his private apartments at Alcazar, and it is thanks to this isolated position that it escaped the fire of 1734.
Portrait of the Infanta Magarita
Velázquez had painted a first portrait of the Infanta Margarita – child of the marriage between Philip IV and Marianna of Austria in 1654 when the little girl was just three years old (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). This is his fourth portrait of her and his final painting that was left unfinished in the hands of his pupil-brother-in-law, Juan Baptista del Mazo. Here, Velázquez seems to have rediscovered the fresh notes that many years before had inspired his portrait of the young Baltasar Carlos (a painting that is midway between the official and a test of formal skill). Even in this case the masterful technique illuminates the heavy drapes, the flowery rug, the dress and the unequivocally Habsburg face, veiled with a bare touch of make-up, with touches of color and light.
Portrait of Prince Felipe Próspero
This painting was sent to Vienna, and may have been the pendant of the Portrait of the Infanta Margarita at Eight Years, in 1659. The heir to the throne, child of the marriage between Philip IV and Marianna of Austria, is portrayed in reds, pink, mother-of-pearl grays and transparent whites (the same colors we see in the Portrait of the Infanta Margarita at Nine Years) and with a bulky set of good-luck charms, that served little to protect him from his destiny: he died two years later, five days before the birth of the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, the future Carlos II. In 1660 Velázquez had started a quite different version with the little prince dressed as a boy and without the amulets; it was completed after his death by his pupil-brother-in-law, Juan Baptista del Mazo.
On 6 June 1599 Diego de Silva y Velázquez was baptized in the church of San Pietro in Seville: he was the son of the Portuguese gentleman Don Juan Rodriguez de Silva and Jerónima Velázquez. In December 1610 Velázquez entered the atelier of Francisco Pacheco and at the end of his apprenticeship (1617) he was accepted in the guild of St. Luke. On 23 April 1618 he married his teacher’s daughter, Juana Pacheco de Miranda. His early works were scenes of everyday life such as the Old Woman Frying Eggs and the Water Seller of Seville (1618). In the spring of 1622 he made his first trip to Madrid where he painted the portrait of the poet, Don Luis de Góngora and saw the art collections in the royal palaces. He returned to the capital the following year, on invitation from count Oilvares. In August 1623 he painted his first portrait of king Philip IV that earned the title of “painter to the king” and the possibility of settling in Madrid with his family. This marked the beginning of his rapid rise and within a few years he reached a position of undisputed supremacy. In 1627 he won the competition proclaimed by the king on the theme of the banishment of the “moriscos” and his victory won him the title of “chamberlain.” In 1629 he made a study trip to Italy where he stayed in Genoa, Milan, Venice, Parma and Bologna. He arrived in Rome in 1630, and there he painted some pictures such as The Forge of Vulcan and two Views of the Villa Medici. At the end of the year he went to Naples where he met his compatriot, Jusepe de Ribera, and painted the Portrait of the Infanta Maria. After his return to Spain in 1631 his court commitments became even more intense: he painted several portraits of Prince Baltasar Carlos, the Conteduca Olivares, as well as The Surrender of Breda (1634-35) for the “Room of the Kingdoms” in the Buen Retiro palace. In 1643 he was appointed superintendent of the royal works, and a few years later he was appointed inspector and treasurer of the Octagonal Room in the Royal Palace. In 1649 Velázquez embarked on a second journey to Italy that would last for two years; his mission was to purchase artworks for the royal collections. He stayed in Venice and Rome where he painted some of most fascinating works: The Toilet of Venus (The Rokeby Venus), and the portraits of Juan de Pareja and Pope Innocent X. When he returned to Madrid in 1651 he painted the Portrait of the Infanta María Teresa and the following year, the Portrait of Queen Marianna of Austria. In 1652 he took the oath of “grand marshal of the palaces”, the most important position he ever held. In 1656 he painted The Royal Family, Las Meninas. After the king refused his request for a third voyage to Italy (1657) he was made a knight of the Order of Santiago (1659). In the spring of 1660 he went to the Pyrenees to set up the pavilion for the wedding of the Infanta María Teresa and Louis XIV of France. He returned to Madrid in June and shortly fell ill, to die on 6 August 1660. He was buried, with full honors, the following day in the church of St. John the Baptist, and a week later was joined by his wife Juana.The works