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Biography of Diego Velazquez | monograph of the great Spanish painter

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Biography of Diego Velazquez

The monograph includes a virtual exhibition of the work of the great Spanish painter, one of the most influential and universal.

Master without pair of pictorial art, Diego Velázquez Seville adorned his character with a discretion, reserve and such serenity that, while much can tell and mentioned on his work, little is known and probably never know more about your psychology. Young disciplined and conscientious, they must not like him too the slaps with which salpimentaba his teachings master painter Herrera the elder, with whom he apparently spent a brief season, before registration, at the age of twelve, that modest painter workshop and excellent person as Francisco Pacheco. It came the first news, at the time that the first commendation, that would be the greatest Spanish Baroque painter and, without a doubt, one of the greatest artists in the world at any age.

The melancholic gaze

Diego Velázquez was son of a not-too-rich hidalgo belonging to a family from Portugal, perhaps of Porto, although already born in Seville, called Juan Rodríguez, and Jerónima Velázquez, also woman of lineage but scarce heritage. On the day of his baptism, John threw the campaigns on the fly (payment of a modest sum to the sacristan), then invited friends to claret and San Juan de Alfarache cakes and entertained the vitoreante chiquilleria with coins of little amount that threw out the window. There you defraud this expenditure and these celebrations the newcomer rod, which was amenable to parental wishes during his childhood and entered the workshop of Francisco Pacheco without flinching.

Detail of self-portrait of 1643 (Uffizi Gallery)
The boy gave precocisimas tests of its mana as a draftsman and so rapidly learned the subtle art of colors that Pacheco good not dared twisting his genius and led him gently where the inspiration of the young man took him. Between teacher and disciple is shook a strong friendship based on admiration and in reasonable pride of Pacheco and the gratitude of the awake boy since then. These ties completed knot when the old painter was determined to give the hand of his daughter Juana his star pupil of nineteen years.
On the reasons that decided him to favour this marriage writes Pacheco: "after five years of education and teaching married you my daughter, moved by his virtue, cleanliness, and good parties, and of the hopes of its natural and great ingenuity." And because the honor of teacher of father-in-law, has just been clogging the audacity of some who want to attribute this glory, taking away the Crown of my last years. "I have by decreasing outdo the master to the disciple, no lost Leonardo da Vinci to have Rafael by disciple, Castelfranco Jorge Tiziano, nor Plato to Aristotle, since removed you not the divine name."

The conquest of the Court

Soon became small Seville Velázquez and tried to win a placement at the Court, where Felipe IV, King of diplomatic but very few lights had been recently installed fan arts and eventually would feel a great devotion and even a rare need to your company by the painter. In his first trip to Madrid he had no luck, as had many recommendations necessary for access to the Palace and returned to their homeland without having seen the minor success. It would have been a real shame than their patron and father-in-law had not you become more expensive and encouraged to try it again next year, because otherwise the promising Diego had been confined in an environment too parochial, oblivious to the new air circulating in the cosmopolitan environment of the courts of Europe.
In Seville, during what have been called, with erudite historian artifice, his first time (although the work of Velázquez is the result of a relentless pursuit), his style follows the mannerists and scholars of Venetian art, such as Juan de Roelas, but adopting the impressive chiaroscuro of Caravaggio, rather than this last influence has been discussed. However, Velázquez go soon for a Baroque realism, followed equally by Zurbarán and Alonso Cano, bold and shaken, serious and full of contrasts.

The three musicians (to 1618)
Such realism, in its most popular, had been frequented by the literature of the time and that same air of picaresque novel appears in lunch that keep the museums of Leningrad and Budapest, as well as three musicians, where, however, disappears the humor to focus the theme on the description of battered dignity of its protagonists. Even more curious is how, also by that time, uses the orders of religious affairs for the Ember lend to its sardine, and leaving in a remote background episode that gives title to the picture, go to a close-up of the representation rough characters of the people and detailed still lifes where accumulate poor everyday life objects. It is the case of Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, box that acquires full relevance the kitchen and its inhabitants, the fish, vessels, the most humble elements.
Prado Museum also keeps the Seville period, as the splendid canvas paintings the adoration of the Magi, dated in 1619, shortly after his marriage with Juana to give him offspring, and where they wanted to see, especially in children's traits of the child Jesus, a tribute to his family and taking a breath of the happiness of the new father. It is safe, moreover, that the Magi are authentic portraits, not more or less conventional idealizations, and it also reveals the true vocation of who would be the greatest portraitist of his time. In its second attempt in Madrid, already conveniently bearing guarantees, Velázquez received mercies and favors of the count-Duke of Olivares, who got him his big chance to recommend to make a portrait of the new monarch.
Philip IV was so pleased by this work, which immediately appointed him court painter, forcing Velazquez to transfer their residence to the capital and to live in the Royal Palace. In its early years Madrid artist was replacing its characteristic earthy tones by a unusual shades of gray that, over time, would be his most admirable resource and a living exponent of his subtle genius.

The impression of the landscape

To 1629 Velázquez painted his first large painting of mythological subject, called drunkards because the topic dedicated to Bacchus becomes in your hands in a picture of the popular binges at the time; the following year it reaches Madrid Rubens, with whom he had a good and loyal friendship; Rubens recommends that you do not let to visit Italy, where his art may be debugged and ennoble it. Committed since then on it, get, after much insistence, license of the King and, departing from the port of Barcelona, disembarked in Genoa in 1629. Visit Verona, Ferrara, Loreto, Bologna, Naples and Rome, unpainted hardly anything, but studying it all, memorizing ranges of colors, bold compositions, rare atmospheres, lights unusual.
Probably then, although there are some who claim was on his second trip to Rome, he painted the wonderful views of the garden of the Villa Medici in Rome. In these delicious places lived the Spanish thanks to the recommendation of its Ambassador and there, in the open air, took great notes. They are, in fact, melancholy, romantic, timeless, almost impressionistic landscapes for their freedom from stroke, despite being in more than two centuries previous to the pictures of that style, and perhaps even more perfect in capturing elusive luminous instant, the air clean and still captured by the dense vegetation and scenographic architecture. And the amazing thing is that these images that today preserves the Museum del Prado, unforgettable when seen only once, were painted as to the desgaire, as idle and free exercise, on small canvases that do not reach the half a meter high and little less than width, but that summary, with impeccable evidence, the Supreme wisdom achieved in those years by Velázquez.
Well certainly, on his return to Spain, he made larger works and packaging, such as the surrender of Breda, also known for Spears, but in this commitment to painting, finished in 1635 to the Hall of realms in the newly opened Palace of Buen Retiro, moves also most the anecdotal to the pompous remembrance of the last triumph of a predecessor of Felipe IV.

Detail of the child of Vallecas (1643-45)
During the thirty and forty of the century was Velazquez the painter not only their fanciful King, but the "vermin of Palace", of the buffoons like El Bobo de Coria, Diego de Acedo, the cousin and the child of Vallecas, and after his second trip to Italy to buy works of art on behalf of his Majesty, his palette produced three intractable and very well-known masterpieces. The Venus in the mirror, kept in the National Gallery in London, is famous for being one of the few naked Spanish author of the period have been preserved, although be supposed him to three more to the Sevillian painter, for which perhaps serve as a model the outrageous and beautiful actress Damiana, lover of the wild Marquis de Heliche's.
For the realization of Las Hilanderas, based currently in the Museo del Prado, Velázquez planted his easel in the tapestry factory in the street of Santa Isabel in Madrid. The representation of unique women around the swivel wheel when did soon forget that this was a mythological subject (the fable of Arachne and Palas) believing themselves since ancient times it was a genre picture.

Las Meninas

Among the portraits made by the Royal family, there is one who enjoys immense fame, and it has become the paradigm of the painter's work: Velázquez and the Royal family or Las Meninas. This picture, which has given rise to a multitude of interpretations, spatial framework is the most important room of the apartment of the Royal Palace where he lived the painter. The work appears the same Velazquez against the Ridge with the cross of the order of Santiago, although the distinction was added after his death by order of the King, since Velazquez still had not received it when he painted the picture.
At the bottom of the room, a mirror reflects the image of the King and the Queen; infanta Margarita accompanied by two maidens real appears in the Center, and to the right of the box, in the foreground, include the Mari-Barbola dwarf and dwarf Nicolás of Pertusato, which tries to wake up with the foot to a Mastiff lying on the ground. Behind this group there are two figures and finally, beside the staircase, we see the Butler of the Queen.

Detail of Las Meninas (1656)
The composition is of great complexity and is an extraordinary example of painting of a painting: the Kings are represented indirectly, seen through a mirror, while as regards the protagonists of the work, the infanta and her companions, is not known if they are the subject of the painting Velázquez is working on either if they are looking to paint the artist. Finally, the viewer feels included in the space of the painting, since the mirror images of the Kings makes you assume that they are watching the same scene that it but behind them. Put another way, the spectator illusorily takes the place of the portrayed, the place of the Kings, and this fact has given fuel to the incessant speculation. From the point of view of the Bill, it is a work of prodigious execution, even within the painting by the artist. The brushstrokes are highlights that model dresses and bodies, giving them a great vivacity.
By personal commitment of Felipe IV, Velázquez would receive, a year before he died in Madrid August 6, 1660, the prized distinction of Knight of the order of Santiago, an honor not granted never neither before nor after any painter. And although, to demolish the Church, no one remembered that his remains had been buried in the parish of San Juan Bautista, when in 1990 organized a magna retrospective of his work at the Museum of the Prado, thousands and thousands of people from all the cardinal points streamed incessantly to laugh the idiotic gesture jester Calabacillas, admire the brushwork that captures a princess dress interrogate the equestrian picture of the count-Duke of Olivares and penumbroso air of the 17TH century over and immortalized in the paintings of Velázquez.

Chronology of Diego Velazquez


1599Born in Seville.
1611Enter as an apprentice in the workshop of the painter Francisco Pacheco.
1618He married Juana Pacheco, daughter of his teacher. Paints the old woman cooking eggs (National Gallery, Edinburgh)
1621Paints the waterseller of Seville (Wellington collection, London).
1622He moved to Madrid.
1623He was appointed court painter by the count-Duke of Olivares.
1627He was named "usher's camera", the first of a long series of honorary appointments.
1628Meet Rubens, who encouraged him to travel to Italy.
1629-31First trip to Italy. Visit Genoa, Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome.
1633He works in the decoration of the Hall of the kingdoms of the Palace of the Buen Retiro. Different works prepared for the classroom, emphasizes the surrender of Breda (Prado Museum, Madrid).
1638It deals with the decoration of the Tower of the stop, a hunting lodge located in the Pardo, that painted different portraits of courtiers in hunting costume.
1645-48He made some works not responsible for extraordinary level, such as the Venus of the mirror (National Gallery, London).
1648-51Second journey to Italy. He painted the Portrait of Pope Innocent X (Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome)
1656Painted Las Meninas (Prado Museum, Madrid).
1659You are granted the order of Santiago.
1660Died in Madrid.

Works by Diego Velázquez


The importance of Velázquez, aside from its own personality, lies in its ability to treat in a masterly way, throughout his long career, most of the major pictorial issues of his time. Consummate portraitist, was not however lower your quality works of mythological, religious, allegorical, and landscape genre.

The art of the portrait

The evolution of his portraits is surprising, warning them the lack of affectation of the artists who cultivated this genre. His first work within this theme is the portrait of Sister Jeronima de la Fuente (1620, Museo del Prado, Madrid), first Abbess of the convent of Santa Clara in Manila. In it, the Sevillian master is still indebted to a dry and dibujístico, typical of the first Seville stage style. Before leaving for the Court, made the portrait of the poet Luis de Góngora y Argote (1622, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), which abounds in psychological character collection.
Upon arrival at Madrid, Felipe IV young arrange you a wide repertoire of its Regal image, which will begin with the bust of Philip IV with shell (1625, Museo del Prado, Madrid), after that of Gaspar de Guzman, count-Duke of Olivares (1624, Museum of art, São Paulo), maximum development of their art to the Spanish Crown. They are portraits of members of the Royal family and the same monarch, such as the Infante don Carlos and Felipe IV's entire body, both in the Museo del Prado. In all of them the scheme is almost identical, getting the visual depth thanks to the shadow projected by the bodies of the sitters.
After his trip to Italy in the year 1629, the representation of the members of the royalty would acquire greater realism of emphases. Velazquez painted them not as they would have liked to be represented, but as he sees them. The series of portraits in hunting, responsible for the Tower's stop costume, and portraits, already discussed, to the Hall of realms, are good sample of the realistic desire of Velázquez. Only time, Portrait Equestrian of the count-Duke of Olivares (1634, Museo del Prado, Madrid), departs from the restrained attitude of this painter, to show us a representation determined in Baroque terms.
His second trip to Italy the year 1649 will be a landmark in his career portraiture that is summed up in two magnificent paintings: of his servant and also a painter Juan de Pareja (1650, Metropolitan Museum, New York), and the Pope Innocent X (1650, Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome). The papal portrait has to be considered one of the best examples of psychological catchment and great formal solution of the history of art.

Detail of Pope innocent X (1650)
On his return to Spain, King asks for a portrait of his second wife Mariana of Austria and their offspring, both previous and recent. Highlights of The Infanta Maria Teresa at the age of thirteen (1651, Metropolitan Museum, New York) the successive portraits of the infanta Margarita, protagonist of Las meninas, and his sickly brother, Prince Felipe prosperous. In them her palette knows to combine pink, grey and red in a chromatic harmony of plastic values above the mere representation.

Jesters and dwarves

Worthy of mention is his series of dwarfs and buffoons, started in 1626 with Juan pumpkins, called Calabacillas (Cleveland Museum of Arts, Ohio) and continued by El Prince Baltasar Carlos with a dwarf (1631, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). The Prado Museum preserves the series started by Pablo de Valladolid (1633) and continued by Francisco Lezcano, the child of Vallecas (1634), the jester Barbarroja, Don Cristóbal de Castañeda y Pernia (1636) the jester Calabacillas, erroneously called the bobo de Coria (1639), the jester named don Juan de Austria (1643), the jester don Diego de Acedo, "El Primo" (1645) and jester Sebastian de Morra (1644).
All of them are treated with great humanity, with the same emphasis and realism to the Regal portraits. We will never know if the painter made these pictures on its own initiative or at the request of the monarch. But the truth is that Velazquez has left us a gallery of characters sad, watched with attention that could seem ruthless, if they were not veiled by a tone of melancholy and commiseration, the filling of a undeniable humanity.

Mythological works

The mythology is treated by Velázquez with the concept of the naturalist painters. Like Caravaggio, acknowledge the myth doing everyday, almost star of a genre scene. This issue starts with the Triumph of Bacchus (1629, Museo del Prado, Madrid), better known as drunkards. The protagonist loses value to the strength of the popular characters. It is obvious that Velázquez knows deeply the culture mythological, learned at home from his father-in-law Pacheco, place of meeting and discussion of the Sevillian intelligentsia of the time. And how to meet it dares to demystify it.

Detail of The Venus in the mirror (1650)
Your ideal Classicist of great contention is evident in the solution that gives the subject of the infidelities of Venus. In the forge of Vulcan (1630, Museo del Prado, Madrid), the work carried out in Italy, tells of how Apollo, discovering the infidelity of Venus with Mars, wife of Vulcan, communicates to this cruel act. Vulcan appears as a mortal, blending with its workers. Equal ideology is present in the representation of the God Mars (1640, Museo del Prado, Madrid), in The Venus in the mirror (1650, National Gallery, London) or in his mercury and Argus (1659, Museo del Prado, Madrid), reaching the trivialization of the myth in his well-known Fable of Arachne, popularly known as Las hilanderas (1657 h., Museo del Prado, Madrid).

Religious works

More complex is the study of its religious themes, which started in Seville with the adoration of the Magi (1619, Museo del Prado, Madrid). While his St John the Evangelist on Patmos (1618, National Gallery, London) seems to be from his hand, doubts spread to the Immaculate conception (1618, National Gallery, London) and its apostolates.
Recently Brown has attributed to Alonso Cano the Grand canvas of the Temptation of Saint Thomas of Aquino (Diocesan Museum of sacred art, Orihuela), of uncertain date. In the same way, the Coronation of the Virgin (Museo del Prado, Madrid) has been attributed to the aforementioned Granada painter, subtracting catalogue San Antonio Abad and Paul, first hermit (1634-35, Museo del Prado, Madrid). Stand out with their own light their two crucified Christs, both in the Prado Museum, mostly known as Cristo de San Plácido (h. 1632), an austere classicism.

Other topics

The allegory is summarized in its emblematic composition Las meninas, unique portrait of group in the velazquena production that can be interpreted as a defense of the nobility and liberality of the painting. Much there has been speculation about its meaning. The infanta Margarita seems to notice her parents (Felipe IV and Mariana de Austria) that are reflected in the mirror in the background that transmits his image painted on the canvas. It is accompanied by his entourage, composed of Doña María Agustina de Sarmiento, Doña Isabel de Velasco, the dwarf Maribarbola and dwarf Nicolasito Pertusato from left to right. Secondly, are Doña Manuela de Ulloa, responsible for the service of the ladies of the Queen and, perhaps, don Diego Ruiz de Azcona. In opening the door of the Fund, the Butler of Palace, don José Nieto de Velázquez.
His treatment of the landscape genre samples are their two small frames views of the garden of the Villa Médicis (Museo del Prado, Madrid), of uncertain date, that Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo can add real wild boar hunting (h. 1638, National Gallery, London), and the View of Zaragoza (h. 1647, Museo del Prado, Madrid), in collaboration with his son-in-law.

Its influence

After his death, Velazquez was the object of admiration by many artists. The footprint of the painter gets revealed in works of artists as extraordinary as Francisco de Goya. In this sense, we find allusions to Las meninas in the family of Carlos IV, the work made by the Aragonese in 1801. Both paintings have as theme the artist working in the company of the Royal family. However, Goya opted for a sober composition and shallow, which contrasts with the dynamism and the abundance of plans for the work of Velázquez.
Many specialists have been highlighted the importance of Velazquez painting of the 19th century. From a dazzling variety of brushstrokes and a subtle harmony of colors, accomplished effects of shape, texture, luminosity and atmosphere that made him a forerunner of Impressionist painting. Proposals from artists such as Édouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet owe much to the lesson of Velázquez.
No less significant was the footprint of Velazquez in the art of the 20th century. Nothing less than Malaga's Pablo Picasso, the most important artist of the century, was based on Las meninas to make different series of compositions. Other notable modern artists such as Francis Bacon, Antonio Saura and Manolo Valdés, were also inspired by his painting to produce some of his most outstanding proposals.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
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