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Diego Velazquez

This article is about Diego Velazquez the great 17th century Spanish painter. For the Spanish Conquistador who invaded Cuba in 1511, see Diego Velasquez de Cuellar
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599 - August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain.

Born in Seville early in June 1599, Velazquez was an artist of astonishing technique and confidence, and in the opinion of of many art critics unsurpassed as a portrait artist.

Las Meninas
Painted 1656

His great fame came long after his death, starting in the first quarter of the 19th century, when it proved a model for the Realist and Impressionist artists, in particular Manet. His influence continued on to later artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Until the 19th century revival of interest in Velazquez, his pictures in the palaces and museum of Madrid were little known to the outside world; and from want of popular appreciation they mostly escaped being stolen by the French marshals during the Peninsular War. In 1828 Sir David Wilkie wrote from Madrid that he felt himself in the presence of a new power in art as he looked at the works of Velazquez, and at the same time found a wonderful affinity between this master and the English school of portrait painters, being specially reminded of the firm, square touch of Henry Raeburn. He was struck by the sense of modernness of impression, of direct contact with nature, and of vital force which pervaded all the work of Velazquez, in landscape as well as in portraiture. Time and criticism have now fully established his reputation as one of the most consummate of painters, and accordingly John Ruskin says of him that “everything Velazquez does may be taken as absolutely right by the student.” At the present day his marvellous technique and strong individuality have given him a power in European art such as is exercised by no other of the old masters. Although acquainted with all the Italian schools, and the friend of the foremost painters of his day, he was strong enough to withstand every external influence and to work out for himself the development of his own najure and his own principles of art.

A realist of the realists, Velazquez painted only what he saw; consequently his imagination seems limited. His religious conceptions are of the earth earthy, although some of his works, such as the Crucifixion and the Christ at the Column, are characterized by an intensity of pathos in which he ranks second to no painter. His men and women seem to breathe, his horses are full of action and his dogs of life, so quick and close is his grasp of his subject. England was the first nation to recognize his extraordinary merit, and it owns by far the largest share of his works outside of Spain.

Of the 274 works attributed to Velazquez by Mr Curtis, 121 are in the United Kingdom, while France has but 13, Austria-Hungary 12, Russia 7, and Germany about the same number. Beruete, who only allows to known pictures to be genuine works of Velazquez, allots 14 to the United Kingdom, which number still considerably exceeds that of any other country save Spain.

But Velazquez can only be seen in all his power in the gallery of the Prado at Madrid, where over sixty of his works are preserved, including historical, mythological and religious subjects, as well as landscapes and portraits. It is hardly creditable to the patriotism of Seville, his native town, that no example of his work is to be seen in the gallery of that city. Seville was then in the height of its prosperity, “the pearl of Spain,” carrying on a great trade with the New World, and was also a vigorous centre of literature and art. For more than a hundred years it had fostered a native school of painting which ranked high in the Peninsula, and it reckoned among its citizens many whose names are prominent in Spanish literature.

The Life of Velazquez

Velazquez was the son of Rodriguez de Silva, a lawyer in Seville, descended from a noble Portuguese family, and was baptized on the 6th of June 1599. Following a common Spanish usage, he is known by his mother's name Velazquez. There has been considerable diversity of opinion as to his full name, but he was known to his contemporaries as Diego de Silva Velazquez, and signed his name thus. He was educated, says Palomino, by his parents in the fear of God, and was intended for a learned profession, for which he received a good training in languages and philosophy. But the bent of the boy was towards art, and he was placed under the elder Herrera, a vigorous painter who disregarded the Italian influence of the early Seville school. From his works in Seville we can see that Herrera was a bold and effective painter; but he was at the same time a man of unruly temper, and his pupils could seldom stay long with him. Velasquez remained but one year—- long enough, however, to influence his life. It was probably from Herrera that he learned to use long brushes, or, as J. E. Hodgson, R.A., suggested, brushes with long bristles, by means of which his colours seem to be floated on the canvas by a light, fluent touch, the envy and despair of his successors.

After leaving Herrera's studio Velazquez went to a very different master, the learned and pedantic Pacheco[?], the author, of a heavy book on painting, and, as we see by his works at Madrid, a dull, commonplace painter, though at times he could rise to a rare freedom of handling and to a simple, direct realism that is in direct contradiction to the cult of Raphael preached by him in his writing. In Pacheco's school Velazquez remained for five years, studying proportion and perspective, and seeing all that was best in the literary and artistic circles of Seville. Here also he fell in love with his master's daughter Juana, whom he married in 1618 with the hearty approval of Pacheco, who praises his hand and heart, claiming at the same time all the credit of having been his master. The young painter set himself to copy the commonest things-- earthenware jars of the country people, birds, fish, fruit and flowers of the market-place. To paint well and thoroughly what he saw, to model with his brush, and to colour under the influence of light and shade were for him the vital purpose, the first lesson, in his art. It was with deliberate purpose that Velasquez painted these bodegoas: (tavern-pieces), as they were called; for we are told that he said he would rather be the first painter of common things than the second in higher art. Carrying out this idea still further, Velasquez felt that to master the subtlety of the human lace he must make this a special study,, and he accordingly engaged a peasant lad to be his servant and model, making innumerable studies in charcoal and chalk, aiid catching his every expression. We see this model, probably, in the laughing boy of the Hermitage “Breakfast,” or in the youngest of the “ Musicians” in the Berlin Museum . In such work as this Velasquez laid the foundation of his subsequent mastery of expression, of penetration into character, and of rendering the life of his sitter to the quick. He saw the world around him teeming with life and objects interesting to the painter, and he set himself to render these. His manner is as national as that of Cervantes.

The position and reputation of Velazciuez were now assured at Seville. There his wife bore him two daughters— his only known family. The younger daughter died in infancy, while the elder, Francisca, in due time married Bautista del Mazo[?], a painter, whose large family is that which is represented in the important picture in Vienna which was at one time called the “Family of Velazquez.” This picture is now generally thought to be the work of Mazo. In the gallery at Madrid there is a portrait of Juana, his wife, holding a drawing-tablet on her knee. Another portrait of his wife by Velazquez was painted in the first year of their happy marriage. Of this early Seville manner we have an excellent example in “El Aguador” (the Water-Carrier) at Apsley House (London). Firm almost to hardness, it displays close study of nature. One can see in it the youthful struggle to portray the effects of light stealing here and there over the prominent features of the face, groping after the effects which the painter was to master later on. The brushwork is bold and broad, and the outlines firmly marked. As is usual with Velazquez at this time, the harmony of colours is red, brown and yellow, reminding one of Ribera. For sacred subjects we may turn to the “Adoration of the Magi” at Madrid, dated 1619, and the ”Christ and the Pilgrims of Emmaus”in the collection of Don Manuel de Soto in Zurich, in both of which we have excellent examp1es of his realism. In the “St John in the Desert” we again find his peasant boy transformed into the saint.

Velazquez was now eager to see more of the world and came to Madrid in 1622, fortified with letters of introduction to Fonseca, who held a good position at court, he spent some months there, accompanied only by his servant. The impression which Velazquez made in the capital must have been very strong, for in the following year he was summoned to return by Olivares, the all-powerful minister of Philip IV, fifty ducats being allowed to defray his expenses. On this occasion he was accompanied by his father-in-law. Next year (1624) he received from the king three hundred ducats to pay the cost of moving his family to Madrid, which became his home for the remainder of his life.

While weak as a king, Philip was an art-lover, and was proud to be considered a poet and a painter. It is one of the best features of his character that he remained for a period of thirty-six years the faithful and attached friend of Velazquez, whose merit he soon recognized, declaring that no other painter should ever paint his portrait. By his equestrian portrait of the king, painted in 1623, Velazquez secured admission to the royal service with a salary of twenty ducats per month, besides medical attendance, lodgings and payment for the pictures he might paint. The portrait was exhibited on the steps of San Felipe, and was received with enthusiasm, being vaunted by poets, among them Pacheco. It has unfortunately disappeared, having probably perished in one of the numerous fires which occurred in the royal palaces. The Prado, however, has two portraits of the king (Nos. 1070 and 1071)in which the harshness of the Seville period has disappeared and the tones are more delicate. The modelling is firm, recalling that of Antonio Mor[?], the Dutch portrait painter of Philip II, who exercised a considerable influence on the Spanish school. In the same year the prince Of Wales (afterwards Charles I.) arrived at the court of Spain. We are told that he sat to Velazquez, but the picture has disappeared.

In 1628 Rubens visited Madrid on a diplomatic mission for nine months, and Velazquez was appointed by the king to be his guide among the art treasures of Spain. Rubens was then at the height of his fame, and had undertaken as a commission from Olivares (the large pictures which now adorn the great hall in Grosvenor House, London). These months might have been a new turning-point in the career of a weaker man than Velazquez, for Rubens added to his brilliant style as a painter the manner of a fascinating courtier. Rubens had a high opinion of the talent of Velazquez, but be effected no change in the style of the strong Spaniard. He impressed him, however, with the desire to see Italy and the works of the great Italian painters.

In 1627 the king had given for competition among the painters of Spain the subject of the Expulsion of the Moors. Velazquez bore won the contest; but his picture was destroyed in a fire at the palace in 1734. Palomino, however, describes it. Philip III points with his baton to a crowd of men and women driven off under charge of soldiers, while Spain, a majestic female, sits looking calmly on. The triumph of Velazquez was rewarded by his being appointed gentleman usher. To this was shortly afterwards added a daily allowance of twelve reals, the same amount as was allowed to the court barbers, and ninety ducats a year for dress (the same amount paid to the dwarfs, buffoons and players about the king's person— truly a curious estimate of talent at the court of Spain). As an extra payment he received (though it was not paid for five years) one hundred ducats for the picture of Bacchus, painted in 1629 (No. 1058 of the Madrid gallery). The spirit and aim of this work are better understood from its Spanish name, “Los Borrachos” or” Los Bebedores” (the Tiplers), who are paying mock homage to a half-naked ivy-crowned young man seated on a wine barrel. It is like a story by Cervantes, and is brimful of jovial humour. One can easily see in this picture of national manners how Velazquez had reaped the benefit of his close study of peasant life. The painting is firm and solid, and the light and shade are more deftly handled than in former works. Altogether, this production may be taken. as the most advanced example of the first style of Velazquez.

It is usual to divide the artistic career of Velazquez by his two visits to Italy, his second style following the first visit and his third style the second visit. Rougbly speaking, this somewhat arbitrary division may be accepted, though it will not always apply, for, as is usual in the case of many great painters, his styles at times overlap each other. Velazquez rarely signed his pictures, and the royal archives give the dates of only his more important works. Internal evidence and history, as regards his portraits, supply to a certain extent the rest.

In 1629 Philip gave Velazquez permission to carry out his desire of visiting Italy, without 1oss of salary, making him besides a present of four hundred ducats, to which Olivares added two hundred. He sailed from Barcelona in August in the company of the marquis de Spinola, the conqueror of Breda, then on his way to take command of the Spanish troops at Milan. It was during this voyage that Velazquez must have heard the details of the surrender of Breda from the lips of the victor, and he must have sketched his fine head, known to us also by the portrait by Van Dyck[?]. But the great picture was not painted till many years later, for Spinola had fallen into disfavour at court.

In Venice Velazquez made copies of the "Crucifixion" and the “Last Supper” of Tintoretto[?], which he sent to the king, and in Rome he copied Michelangelo and Raphael, lodging in the Villa Medici till fever compelled him to remove into the city. Here he painted the "Forge of Vulcan"(No. 1059 of the Madrid gallery), in which Apollo narrates to the astonished Vulcan, a village blacksmith, the news of the infidelity of Venus, while four Cyclops listen to the scandal. The mythological treatment is similar to that of the "Bacchus": it is realistic and Spanish to the last degree, giving a picture of the interior of an Andalusian smithy, with Apollo thrown in to make the story tell. The conception is commonplace, yet the impression it produces is undoubted from the vividness of the representation and the power of expression. The modelling of the half-naked figures is excellent. Altogether this picture is much superior to the other work painted at the same time, “Joseph's Coat,” which now hangs in the Escorial. Both these works are evidently painted from the same models. In looking at these two pictures the spectator is especially struck by the fact that they show no trace of the influence of the Italians.

At Rome he also painted the two beautiful landscapes of the gardens of the Villa Medici, now in the Madrid museum (1106 and 1107), full of sparkle and charm. Landscape was uncommon in Spanish art; but Velazquez here shows how great a master he was in this branch. The silvery views of Aranjuez, which at one time passed under his name, are now considered to be the work of his pupil Mazo. After a Visit to Naples in 1631, where he worked with his countryman Ribera, and painted a charming portrait of the Infanta Maria, sister of Philip, Velazquez returned early in the year to Madrid.

Velazquez then painted the first of many portraits of the young prince and heir to the Spanish throne, Don Baltasar Carlos[?], looking dignified and lordly even in his childhood, in the dress of a field-marshal on his prancing steed. The color is warm and bright, the workmanship solid and fused like enamel, while light and air pervade every corner. The scene is in the riding-school of the palace, the king and queen looking on from a balcony, while Olivares is in attendance as master of the horse to the prince. Don Baltasar died in 1646 at the age of seventeen, so that judged by his age this picture must have been painted about 1641.

The powerful minister Olivares was the early and constant patron of the painter. His impassive, saturnine face is familiar to us from the many portraits painted by Velazquez. Two are of surpassing excellence; one full- length, stately and dignified, in which he wears the green cross of Alcantara and holds a wand, the badge of his office as master of the horse; the other the great equestrian portrait of the Madrid gallery (No. 1069), in which he is flatteringly represented as a field-marshal in all his pomp during an action. It is difficult to overpraise the excellence of this work, either as regards its dramatic power or its masterly execution. In these portraits Velazquez has well repaid the debt of gratitude which he owed to his first patron, whom Velazquez stood by during Olivares' fall from power, thus exposing himself to the risk—- and it was not a light one-- of incurring the anger of the jealous Philip. The king, however, showed no sign of malice towards his favoured painter.

Faithful in few things, Philip kept true to Velazquez, whom he visited daily in his studio in the palace, and to whom he stood in many attitudes and costumes, as a huntsman with his dogs, as a warrior in command of his troops, and even on his knees at prayer, wearing ever the same dull uninterested look. His pale face and lack-lustre eye, his fair flowing hair and moustaches curled up to his eyes, and his heavy projecting Austrian under-lip are known in many a portrait and nowhere more supremely than in the wonderful canvas of the London National Gallery (No. 745), where he seems to live and breathe. Few portraits in the whole range of art will compare with this work, in which the consummate handling of Velazquez is seen at its best, for it is, in his late and most perfect manner.

From one of the equestrian portraits of the king, painted in 1638, the sculptor Montafles modelled a statue which was cast in bronze by the Florentine sculptor Tacca, and which now stands in the Plaza del Oriente at Madrid. This portrait exists no more; but there is no lack of others, for Velazquez in this and in all his portraits Philip wears the golilla, a stiff linen collar projecting at right angles from the neck. It was invented by the king, who was so proud of it that he celebrated it by a festival, followed by a procession to church to thank God for the blessing. The golilla was thus the height of fashion and appears in most of the male portraits of the penod. In regard to the wonderful structure of Philip's moustaches, it is said that, to preserve their form, they were encased during the night in perfumed leather covers called biaoteras.

Velazquez was in constant and close attendance on Philip, accompanying him in his journeys to Aragon in 1642 and 1644, and was doubtless present with him when he entered Lerida as a conqueror. It was then that he painted the great equestrian portrait (No. 1066 of the Madrid gallery) in which the king is represented as a great commander. leading his troops—- a rôle which Philip never played except in a theatrical pageant. All is full of animation except the stolid face of the king. It hangs as a pendant to the great Olivares portrait—fit rivals of the neighbouring Charles V. by Titian, which doubtless fired Velazquez to excel himself, and both remarkable for their silvery tone and their feeling of open air and harmony combined with brilliancy. The light plays on the armour and scarf thrown to the wind, showing how cotnpletely Velazquez had mastered the effects he strove to reach in his early days.

Besides the forty portraits of Philip by Velazquez, we have portraits of other members of the royal family, of Philip's first wife, Isabella of Bourbon[?], and her children, especially of her eldest son, Don Baltasar Carlos, of whom, besides those already mentioned, there is a beautiful full-length in a private room at Buckingham Palace. Cavaliers, soldiers, churchmen and poets of the court, as for example the Quevedo at Apsley House, sat to the painter and, even if forgotten by history, will live on his canvas. The Admiral Pulido Pareja now at the National Gallery is said to have been taken by Philip for the living man; nevertheless, A. de Beruete is emphatic in denying Velazquez's authorship of this picture, which he attributes to Mazo. It has been remarked that the Spaniards have always been chary of committing to canvas the portraits of their beautiful women. Queens and infantas may be painted and exhibited, but ladies rarely. One wonders who the beautiful woman can be that adorns the Wallace collection, the splendid brunette so unlike the usual fair-haired female sitters to Velasquez. She belongs to this period of his work, to the ripeness of his middle period. Instinct with life, her bosom seems to heave and the blood to pulsate through her veins, The touch is firm but free, showing the easy strength of the great master. Rarely has flesh been painted with such a glow, yet with such reserve. This picture is one of the ornaments of the Wallace collection. But, if we have few ladies of the court of Philip, we have in great plenty his buffoons and dwarfs. Even these deformed or haif-witted creatures attract our sympathy as we look at their portraits by Velazquez, who, true to his nature, treats them gently and kindly, as in “El Primo” (the Favourite), 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. “El Bobo de Coria,” “El Nino de Vallecas” and “Pablillos,” a buffoon evidently acting a part, all belong to this middle period.

From these commissioned portraits of the menials of the court it is pleasant to turn to one of the greatest of historical works, the “Surrender of Breda”, often known as “Las Lanzas,” from the serried rank of lances breaking the sky, which is believed to have been painted about 1647. It represents the moment when the vanquished Justin of Nassau[?] in front of his Dutch troops is submissively bending as be offers to his conqueror Spinola the keys of the town, which, with courteous grace, the victor refuses to accept, as he lays his hand gently on the shoulder of his defeated foe. Behind Spinola stand the Spanish troops bearing their lances aloft, while beyond is a long stretch of the Low Country, dotted with fortifications and giving the impression of vast space and distance. The picture is full of light and air, and is perhaps the finest example of the silvery bluish style of Velazquez. In conception it is as fine as in execution, and one looks in vain for a trace of “the malicious pencil” which Sir William Stirling-Maxwell[?] discerned in the treatment of Justin and his gallant Dutchmen.

The greatest of the religious paintings by Velazquez belongs also to this middle period, the Christ on the Cross (Madrid gallery, No. 1055). Palomino says it was painted in 1638 for the convent of San Placido. It is a work of tremendous power and of great originality, the moment chosen being that immediately after death. The Saviour's head hangs on his breast and a mass of dark tangled hair conceals part of the face. The beautiful form is projected against a black and hopeless sky from which light has been blotted out. The figure stands absolutely alone, without any accessory. The skull and serpent were added by some pious bungler at a much later date. The picture was lengthened to suit its place in an oratory; but this addition has since been removed. To the same period belongs the great "Boar Hunt" at the National Gallery, a magnificent work in spite of some restorations. The smaller "Boar Hunt" in the Wallace collection is from the brush of Mazo; and the "Conversation, a Group of Thirteen Persons," at the Louvre, a picture which in conception has much in common with these hunting scenes, probably owes its origin to the same artist. A. de Beruete emphatically denies Velazquez's authorship of this much belauded picture, which he describes as a " mediocre imitation, probably by Mazo."

Velazquez's son-in-law Mazo had succeeded him as usher in 1634, and he himself had received steady promotion in the royal household, receiving a pension of 500 ducats in 1640, increased to 700 in 1648, for portraits painted and to be painted, and being appointed inspector of works in the palace in 1647. Philip now entrusted him with the carrying out of 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 Velazquez was commissioned to proceed to Italy to make purchases.

Accompanied by his faithful slave Pareja, whom he taught to be a good painter, he sailed from Malaga in 1649, landing at Genoa, and proceeding thence by Milan to Venice, buying Titians, Tintorettos and Veroneses as he went. A curious conversation which he is said to have had with Salyator Rosa is reported by Boschini, in which the Spaniard with perfect frankness confesses his want of appreciation of Raphael and his admiration of Titian, "first of all Italian men." It seems a possible story, for Velazquez bought according to his likings and painted in the spirit of his own ideals. At Modena he was received with much favour by the duke, and doubtless here he painted the portrait of the duke at the Modena gallery and two splendid portraits which now adorn the Dresden gallery, for these pictures came from the Modena sale of 1746.

Those works presage the advent of the painter's third and latest manner, a noble example of which is the great Portrait of Pope Innocent X. in the Doria palace at Rome, to which city Velazquez now proceeded. There he was received with marked favour by the pope, who presented him with a medal and gold chain. Of this portrait, thought by Sir Joshua Reynolds to be the finest picture in Rome, Palomino says that Velazquez took a copy to Spain. There exist several in different galleries, some of them possibly studies for the original or replicas painted for Philip. One shows modelling of the stern impassive face comes near to perfection, so delicate are the gradations in the full light; all sharpness of outline has disappeared; and the features seem moulded by the broad and masterly brushwork. When closely examined, the work seems coarse, yet at the proper distance it gives the very essence of living flesh. The handling is rapid but unerring. Velazquez had now reached the manera abreviada, as the Spaniards call this bolder style. This is but another way of saying that his early and laborious studies and his close observation of nature had given to him in due time, as to all great painters, the power of representing what he saw by simpler means and with more absolute truth. The portriat shows such ruthlessness in Innnocent X's expression that some in the Vatican feared that Velazquez would meet with the Pope's displeasure, but Innocent X was well pleased with the work, and hung it in his official visitor's waiting room, where he made a point of giving visiting dignitaries time with the intimidating portrait staring down at them before their Papal audience. Centuries later, the painter Francis Bacon would create an expressionist variation on Velazquez's portrait, entitled "Figure With Meat" (1954) showing the Pope between halves of a bisected cow.

At Rome Velazquez also painted a Portrait of his servant Pareja, now in the Metropolitain Museum of Art[?] in New York City. This portrait procured his election into the Academy of St Luke. It is said that the master created this portrait as a "warm up" of his skills before his portrait of the Pope. This portrait captures great detail of Pareja's continence and his somewhat worn and patched clothing with an impressive economy of brushwork, and is one of Velazquez's works most admired by fellow artists.

King Philip wished for Velazquez to return to Spain; accordingly, after a visit to Naples, where he saw his old friend Ribera, he returned to Spain via Barcelona in 1651, taking with him many pictures and 300 pieces of statuary, which he afterwards arranged and catalogued for the king. Undraped sculpture was, however, abhorrent to the Spanish Church, and after Philip's death these works gradually disappeared.

Isabella of Bourbon[?] had died in 1644, and the king had married Mariana of Austria, whom Velazquez now painted in many attitudes. He was specially chosen by the king to fill the high office of aposentador major, which imposed on him the duty of looking after the quarters occupied by the court whether at home or in their journeys—- a responsible function, which was no sinecure and interfered with the exercise of his art. Yet far from indicating any decline, his works of this period are amongst the highest examples of his style. The dwarf "Don Antonio el Ingles" (the Englishman) with his dog, "Aesop," "Menippus " and "the Sculptor Montanes," all in the Madrid gallery, show his surest and freest manner. To these may be added the charming portraits of the royal children in the Louvre and Vienna, among the choicest of his works.

It is one of these infantas, Margarita Maria, the eldest daughter of the new queen, that is the subject of the well-known picture Las Meninas (see), one of Velazquez's greatest and most famous works. The story is told that the king painted the red cross of Santiago on the breast of the painter, as it appears to-day on the canvas. Velazquez did not, however, receive the honour till 1659, three years after the execution of this work. Even the powerful king of Spain could not make his favourite a belted knight without a commission to inquire into the purity of his lineage on both sides of the house. The records of this commission have been found among the archives of the order of Santiago by M. Villaarnil. Fortunately the pedigree could bear scrutiny, as for generations the family was found free from all taint of heresy, from all trace of Jewish or Moorish blood and from contamination by trade or commerce. The difficulty connected with the fact that he was a painter was got over by his being painter to the king and by the declaration that he did not sell his pictures.

But for this royal appointment, which enabled him to escape the censorship of the Inquisition, we should never have had his splendid "Venus and Cupid" at the National Gallery. It is painted in his latest manner and is worthy of comparison with Titian. There were in truth but two patrons of art in Spain— the church and the art-loving king and court. Bartolome Esteban Murillo was the artist favoured by the church while Velazquez was patronized by the crown. One difference, however, deserves to be noted. Murillo, who toiled for a rich and powerful church, left scarcely sufficient means to pay for his burial, while Velazquez lived and died in the enjoyment of good salaries and pensions. Yet on occasions Philip gave commissions for religious pictures to Velazquez— among others, and belonging to this later period, the " Coronation of the Virgin" (Madrid, 1056), splendid in colour-- a harmony of red, blue and grey—but deficient in religious feeling and dignity. It was painted for the oratory of the queen, doubtless Mariana, in the palace at Madrid. Another royal commission for the hermitage of Buen Retire was the "St Anthony the Abbot and St Paul the Hermit," painted in 1659. Some uncertainties in the proprietorial history of this picture have led to considerable discussion concerning its authenticity. But the suggestion that Maze's signature could be detected on it was repudiated by an expert committee in 1910 who carefully examined the painting, of which excited the warm admiration of Sir David Wilkie (No. 1057 in the Prado).

The last of his works which we shall name is “Las Hilanderas” or the Spinners, painted about 1656, representing the interior of the royal tapestry works. The subject is nothing, the treatment everything. It is full of light, air and movement, splendid in colour and marvellous in handling. This picture, Raphael Mengs said, seemed to have been painted not by the hatid but by the pure force of will. We see in it the full ripeness of the power of Velazquez, a concentration of all the art- knowledge he had gathered during his long artistic career of more than forty years. In no picture is he greater as a colourist. The scheme is simple— a harmony of red, bluish-green, grey and black, which are varied and blended with consummate skill.

In 1660 a treaty of peace between France and Spain was to be consummated by the marriage of the infanta Maria Theresa with Louis XIV, and the ceremony was to take place in the Island of Pheasants, a sniall swampy island in the Bidassoa. Velazquez was charged with the decoration of the Spanish pavilion and with the whole scenic display. In the midst of the grandees of the first two courts in Christendom Velazquez attracted much attention by the nobility of his bearing and the splendour of his costume. On the 26th of June he returned to Madrid, and On the 3ist ofJuly he was stricken with fever. Feeling his end approaching, he signed his will, appointing as his sole executors his wife and his firm friend Fuensalida, keeper of the royal records. He died on the 6th of August 1660, passing away in the full possession of his great powers, and leaving no work behind him to show a trace of decay. lie was buried in the Fuensalida vault of the church of San Juan, and within eight days his wife Juana was laid beside him. Unfortunately this church was destroyed by the French in 1811, so that his place of interment is now unknown. There was much difficulty in adjusting the tangled accounts outstanding between Velazquez and the treasury, and it was not till 1666, after the death of Philip, that they were finally settled.

The Influence of Velazquez

Velazquez can hardly be said to have formed a school of painting. Apart from the circumstance that his occupations at court would have prevented this, his genius was too personal for transmission by teaching. Yet his influence on those immediately connected with him was considerable. In 1642 he befriended young Bartolome Esteban Murillo on his arrival in Madrid, received him into his house, and directed his studies for three years. His son-in-law Mazo painted in his manner, and doubtless many pictures by Mazo are attributed to the master. Carrefio, though never a pupil, was a favourite and had the good sense to appreciate him and imitate him. His faithful slave Pareja studied his methods and produced work which by the favour of Velazquez procured his manumission from Philip. But the appreciation of the fine talent of Velazquez passed away quickly in Spain, as that country began to fall to pieces.

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...     Contents DB DB can mean the following: dB is the abbreviation for Decibel; see Bel DB is a French automobile maker; see DB (car) ...

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