Sunday, April 5, 2009

THE PAINTER OF PAINTERS


A master of the art of painting, Velázquez handled composition, color, light and space to perfection and was masterful at painting historical scenes, still lifes, interiors, and portraits of noblemen or peasants. His influence extended to such artists as Goya, Courbet, Manet, Eakins, and the Impressionists, and is still being felt today.
(From Barewalls.com)


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (June 6, 1599 – August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).


Las Meninas (1656)
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Las Meninas shows a large room in the Madrid palace of King Philip IV of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot. Some figures look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others interact among themselves. The young Infanta Margarita is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas. Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand. A mirror hangs in the background and reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. The royal couple appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on.
Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. The Baroque painter Luca Giordano said that it represents the "theology of painting", while in the 19th century Sir Thomas Lawrence called the work "the philosophy of art". More recently, it has been described as "Velázquez's supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting".
Velázquez showed an early gift for art; consequently, he began to study under Francisco de Herrera, a vigorous painter who disregarded the Italian influence of the early Seville school. Velázquez remained with him for one year. It was probably from Herrera that he learned to use brushes with long bristles.
After leaving Herrera's studio when he was 12 years old, Velázquez began to serve as an apprentice under Francisco Pacheco, an artist and teacher in Seville. Though considered a generally dull, undistinguished painter, Pacheco sometimes expressed a simple, direct realism in contradiction to the style of Raphael that he was taught. Velázquez remained in Pacheco's school for five years, studying proportion and perspective and witnessing the trends in the literary and artistic circles of Seville.
In December 1622, Rodrigo de Villandrando, the king's favorite court painter, died. Don Juan de Fonseca conveyed to Velázquez the command to come to the court from the Count-Duke of Olivares, the powerful minister of Philip IV. He was offered 50 ducats (175 g of gold—worth about €2000 in 2005) to defray his expenses, and he was accompanied by his father-in-law. Fonseca lodged the young painter in his own home and sat for a portrait himself, which, when completed, was conveyed to the royal palace.

Philip IV in Brown and Silver, 1632
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A portrait of the king was commissioned. On August 16, 1623, Philip IV sat for Velázquez. Complete in one day, the portrait was likely to have been no more than a head sketch, but both the king and Olivares were pleased. Olivares commanded Velázquez to move to Madrid, promising that no other painter would ever paint Philip's portrait and all other portraits of the king would be withdrawn from circulation. In the following year, 1624, he received 300 ducats from the king to pay the cost of moving his family to Madrid, which became his home for the remainder of his life.
In 1627, Philip set a competition for the best painters of Spain with the subject to be the expulsion of the Moors. Velázquez won. His picture was destroyed in a fire at the palace in 1734. Recorded descriptions of it say that it depicted Philip III pointing with his baton to a crowd of men and women driven off under charge of soldiers, while the female personification of Spain sits in calm repose. Velázquez was appointed gentleman usher as reward. Later he also received a daily allowance of 12 réis, the same amount allotted to the court barbers, and 90 ducats a year for dress.
In 1629, he went to live in Italy for a year and a half. Though his first Italian visit is recognized as a crucial chapter in the development of Velázquez's style - and in the history of Spanish Royal Patronage, since Philip IV sponsored his trip - we know rather little about the details and specifics: what the painter saw, whom he met, how he was perceived and what innovations he hoped to introduce into his painting. It is canonical to divide the artistic career of Velázquez by his two visits to Italy, with his second grouping of works following the first visit and his third grouping following the second visit. This somewhat arbitrary division may be accepted though it will not always apply, because, as is usual in the case of many painters, his styles at times overlap each other. Velázquez rarely signed his pictures, and the royal archives give the dates of only his most important works. Internal evidence and history pertaining to his portraits supply the rest to a certain extent.


Philip IV
c. 1624-1627
Oil on canvas
210 x 102 cm (82 3/4 x 40 1/8 in.)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
(artchive.com)


Besides the forty portraits of Philip by Velázquez, he painted portraits of other members of the royal family: Philip's first wife, Elisabeth of Bourbon, and her children, especially her eldest son, Don Baltasar Carlos, of whom there is a beautiful full-length in a private room at Buckingham Palace. Cavaliers, soldiers, and the prominent poet Francisco de Quevedo (now at Apsley House), sat for Velázquez.


Portrait of Philip IV
Oil on canvas, 1652-1653
18 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches (47 x 37.5 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Queen Doña Mariana of Austria
Oil on canvas, 1652-1653
90 7/8 x 51 1/2 inches (231 x 131 cm)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


One wonders who the beautiful woman can be who adorns the Wallace collection, a brunette so unlike the usual fair-haired female sitters to Velázquez. This picture is one of the ornaments of the Wallace collection. However, if few ladies of the court of Philip have been depicted, Velázquez painted several of his buffoons and dwarfs. Velázquez appears to represent them with respect and sympathetically, as in El Primo (1644, English: The Favorite), whose intelligent face and huge folio with ink-bottle and pen by his side show him to be a wiser and better-educated man than many of the gallants of the court. Pablo de Valladolid (1635, English: Paul of Valladolid), a buffoon evidently acting a part, and El Bobo de Coria (1639, English: The Buffoon of Coria) belong to this middle period


Diego de Acedo (El Primo)
Oil on canvas, 1644
42 1/8 x 32 1/4 inches (107 x 82 cm)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Pablo de Valladolid
Oil on canvas, c.1635
82 1/4 x 48 3/8 inches (209 x 123 cm)
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Philip now entrusted Velázquez with carrying out a design on which he had long set his heart: the founding of an academy of art in Spain. Rich in pictures, Spain was weak in statuary, and Velázquez was commissioned once again to proceed to Italy to make purchases.
In 1650 in Rome Velázquez also painted a portrait of his servant, Juan de Pareja, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This portrait procured his election into the Academy of St. Luke. It captures in great detail Pareja's countenance and his somewhat worn and patched clothing with an impressive economy of brushwork; it is one of his best known pieces of portraiture. The Juan de Pareja is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which purchased it in 1971. At the time, the purchase price of over $5.5 million set a new record for paintings at auction. This became a source of some controversy both for the museum and for its director, Thomas Hoving, who spearheaded the effort to acquire the work and considered it one of the finest paintings in the museum's collection. However, art prices have skyrocketed since the mid-1970s, and the Juan de Pareja could be expected to fetch easily ten times its purchase price today.


Portrait of Juan de Pareja
1650
Oil on canvas
81.3 cm × 69.9 cm (32.0 in × 27.5 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Cit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


One of his final works was Las hilanderas (The Spinners), painted circa 1657, representing either the interior of the royal tapestry works or a depiction of Ovid's Fable of Arachne, depending on interpretation. It is full of light, air and movement, featuring vibrant colors and careful handling. Anton Raphael Mengs said this work seemed to have been painted not by the hand but by the pure force of will. It displays a concentration of all the art-knowledge Velázquez had gathered during his long artistic career of more than forty years. The scheme is simple—a confluence of varied and blended red, bluish-green, grey and black.


Las Hilanderas (The Fable of Arachne)
1657
Oil on canvas
167 cm × 252 cm (66 in × 99 in)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Las Hilanderas is a late masterpiece by Diego Velázquez, painted for Don Pedro de Arce, huntsman to King Philip IV. The private patronage of the painting has caused it to be shrouded in some mystery, one uncertainty being its date of creation. Stylistic elements, such as the lightness, the economical use of paint, and the clear influence of the Italian Baroque, have lead many scholars to assert that it was painted in 1657. Others place it earlier, at some time between 1644-50, perhaps because certain aspects of its form and content recall the bodegones Velázquez painted in his early career.
The second ambiguity concerns the subject matter. Traditionally, it was believed that the painting depicted women workers in the tapestry workshop of Santa Isabel. In 1948, however, Diego Angula observed that the iconography suggested Ovid's Fable of Arachne, the story of the mortal Arachne who dared to challenge the goddess Athena to a weaving competition and, in losing the contest, was turned into a spider. This is now generally accepted as the correct interpretation of the painting.
In Las Hilanderas, Velázquez developed a layered composition, an approach he had often used in his earlier bodegones, such as the Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. In the foreground is the contest. The goddess Athena, disguised as an old woman, is on the left and Arachne, in a white top facing away from the viewer, is on the right. Three helpers assist them. In the background, a raised platform (perhaps a stage) displays the finished tapestries. The one visible to us is Arachne's, showing The Rape of Europa — another Greek myth. This is in fact a copy of Titian's version of the subject, which was in the Spanish royal collection.
The painting has been interpreted as an allegory of the arts and even as a commentary on the range of creative endeavor, with the fine arts represented by the goddess and the crafts represented by Arachne. Others think that Velázquez' message was simply that to create great works of art, both great creativity and hard technical work are required. Other scholars have read political allegories into the work. The canvas was probably damaged by the fire at the Alcázar in 1734. The result was the addition of a new section to the upper portion of the canvas.
Velazquez' final portraits of the royal children are among his finest works. These include the Infanta Margarita in blue dress and his only surviving portrait of the sickly Prince Felipe Prospero. The latter is remarkable for its combination of the sweet features of the child prince and his dog with a subtle sense of gloom. As in all of the artist's late paintings, the handling of the colors is extraordinarily fluid and vibrant.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


The Infanta Don Margarita de Austria
Oil on canvas, c.1660
83 3/8 x 57 3/4 inches (212 x 147 cm)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Infante Philip Prosper
Oil on canvas, 1660
50 1/2 x 39 1/8 inches (128.5 x 99.5 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Links:
Paintings until 1620
Paintings between 1621 and 1630
Paintings between 1631 and 1635
The Surrender of Breda (1634-35)
Equestrian portraits (1634-36)
Paintings between 1636 and 1640
Paintings between 1641 and 1650
Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV (1656-57)
Las Hilanderas or The Fable of Arachne (c. 1657)
Paintings between 1651 and 1660
(From Web Gallery of Art)

Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez
(By Senex Magister)



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