Art e Dossier

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Art History

Diego Velázquez: biography

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