Diego Velázquez
El Pintor de los Pintores

A self-portrait (un autorretrato) of the artist, painted around the year 1640.

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was born in the Spanish city of Sevilla in 1599.   

His father's surname was Rodríguez de Silva and his mother's surname was Velázquez However,  he is best known as simply Diego Velázquez:  using just his mother's surname.

This is an image of the birthplace of Diego Velázquez.  It is known as la Casa Natal de Velázquez and it is currently being transformed into a museum dedicated to the artist's life.

It is one of the oldest buildings in Sevilla, built around 1560.

The newly-wed couple Juan Rodríguez de Silva and Jerónima Velázquez moved into this house in the year 1598.  The following year, their first child was born: Diego.

Diego was to become one of the greatest artists of all time!

 

He spent the first 24 years of his life in his home town, Sevilla.  During this time, he married Juana Pacheco who was the daughter of his art teacher - Francisco Pacheco, who was also a well-known and highly-regarded artist. 

Diego and Juana had two daughters: Francisca and Ignacia.

Diego showed immense artistic talent from a young age.  A famous painting that he completed in 1618 when he was just 19 years old, is called Vieja Friendo Huevos - Old Woman Frying Eggs.  (Below).  The painting is kept at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh

Another famous painting from his teenage years is called Cristo en Casa de Marta y María - Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.  (Below).  It is kept at the National Gallery, London.

In both of the paintings above, notice the artist's use of contrasting light and dark and also the realism in the depicted scenes.   In both paintings, food is being prepared in a kitchen.  A painted scene in a Spanish kitchen or tavern with areas of 'still life' such as food and crockery is called un bodegón

Just look at how real the utensils and the food appear to be!  It feels as though you are visiting the households and walking into their normal day of work!   

In the two paintings above, there is also the contrast of  'young' and 'old'.  The two ages are working together and it looks as if the young person is learning from the older person.  

Another bodegón from the same early period of the artist's life is called El Aguador de Sevilla - The Waterseller of Seville.  (Pictured.)

Once again, there are the contrasts of light and dark, young and old.

The boy in this painting appears to be the same as the boy in the painting shown above - Old Woman Frying Eggs.

El Aguador de Sevilla is kept at Apsley House, London.

 

This bodegón is called El Desayuno - The Breakfast.
There are three male characters of differing ages - young and old. 


The younger boy looks like the character in El Aguador de Sevilla and Vieja Friendo Huevos

The old man looks like the character in El Aguador de Sevilla.  He has taken off his hat and his white collar and he has hung them on a peg whilst he eats.  These were considered correct table manners at the time.

There are the contrasts of light and dark, young and old.  The group looks as if they are having a light-hearted conversation.   You can almost hear their voices!   Wouldn't you just love to know what they are saying?

El Desayuno is kept at The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Diego Velázquez lived in the town of his birth, Sevilla, until he was 24 years old.  Then he moved to Madrid where he lived at the court of the Spanish King Felipe IV for the rest of his life.  It is said that the king was so happy with a portrait that Diego Velázquez painted for him, that he gave him the position of official artist to the royal family.  So, Velázquez moved from his home in Sevilla to begin a new life at the royal court!

 King Felipe IV loved art and he was fascinated by Velázquez.   This era (from the late 1400s till the late 1600s) belonged to the most important period of Spanish art and culture, known as el Siglo de Oro - the Golden Age (literally - the Golden Century).   

Below, you can see two early portraits by Velázquez of a young Felipe IV, showing the artistic style that pleased the king so much.

The most famous royal painting by Velázquez is called Las Meninas(Below).  It is also known as La Familia de Felipe IV.  In the painting you can see a group of people who seem to be moving and busy.  They do not appear to be 'still' and 'posing'.  Another interesting observation is how much of the painting is simply shade and darkness!  The actual characters are small in comparison!

In Las Meninas the following people can be seen:

1. The small, five-year-old child in the centre - la Infanta Margarita Teresa (a daughter of the king).

2.  The ladies-in-waiting (las meninas) and other servants of la Infanta Margarita Teresa.

3.  The king and queen who are seen as a reflection in the mirror on the wall at the back.

4.  A servant of the queen who is standing in the open doorway at the back.

5.  The artist Diego Velázquez, himself!  He has incorporated a self-portrait where he is standing at a canvas on which he is painting.  Wouldn't you just love to know what he is painting on that canvas?


The painting Las Meninas is kept at el Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Las Meninas is just so intriguing!   It must be the most mysterious royal portrait ever painted!  There are so many unanswered questions, for example:

The reflection in the mirror shows the king and queen who are observing.  Therefore, are they standing in the same position as us, the observers of the painting?  Are we viewing the scene through the eyes of the king and queen?  Are the king and queen posing for the artist?  Several characters are looking towards us.  Are they also looking at the king and queen?

It really is a multi-dimensional painting!


The two households portayed in Las Meninas (above) and Cristo en Casa de Marta y María (further above) have similarities:  
1.  They contain the dramatic contrast of light and dark, young and old, servants and masters.
2.  They are multi-dimensional: there are different areas of activity within the painting such as an open doorway leading to another area and attracting the observer's gaze to look beyond the nearest and most obvious characters.


Las Hilanderas - The Spinners (below) is another famous painting by Velázquez and an example of his portrayal of movement in the workplace and 'various areas' at the front and the back. 

In Las Hilanderas, there is the artist's use of contrast between young and old, servants and masters, movement and calm.  It is a busy scene of hard work but in the background, a doorway opens into a calm room with tapestries where the weavers' work is being observed and judged.  This painting was inspired by the fable of Arachne.  It is kept at el Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Diego Velázquez died in 1660.  Nobody is sure of the exact location of his final resting place but it is presumed that it is beneath the public square in Madrid called la Plaza de Ramales.  An ancient church, built in the 12th century, called la Iglesia de San Juan Bautista used to stand in this location and it is here where the artist was buried.   In the square, there is a stone column that stands as a monument in memory of the great artist. 

The inscription on the column reads:

MURIÓ EL PINTOR DON DIEGO DE SILVA VELÁZQUEZ EL VIERNES SEIS DE AGOSTO DE 1660 - SU GLORIA NO FUE SEPULTADA CON ÉL.  

The painter don Diego de Silva Velázquez died on Friday 6 August 1660 - His glory was not buried with him.

Diego Velázquez  painted in the Baroque style of the 17th century, using drama, contrast, realism and movement.  In Spanish this art style is called el Barroco.

 


He is truly one of the great artists of the world.

¡Muchas gracias por tus pinturas maravillosas, Diego de Silva Velázquez!

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