Diego Velázquez Biography | Oil Painting Reproductions

6-6-1599 Seville, ESP - 8-6-1660 Madrid, ESP

Back to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Velázquez, Diego

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez was the son of a prominent lawyer and studied languages and philosophy with the intention of following his father, but his aptitude for drawing-induced him to become the pupil of Herera and then Francisco Pacheco, whose daughter he married in 1618.

Like the great literature of the same period, the works of Diego Velazquez reflect an entire century, effectively portraying its way of life and government while capturing emotions, situations, and characters that stand out as timeless archetypes.

Velazquez based this work Philip IV On Horseback on Titian's equestrian portrait of Charles V, where the king is also wearing armor and is shown in profile. Velazquez, however, replaces Titian's dramatic battle scene with the vast, clear serenity of a classic exercise in horsemanship, set against a sweeping backdrop of open countryside.

Velazquez grew up in the lively cultural climate of Seville. At a very early age, he began painting Bogegones (everyday subjects with added elements of still life), whose composition and play of light and shadow, reveal the influence of Caravaggio. In 1623, the Conde-Duque de Olivares, one of King Philip IV's most powerful ministers and a fellow Sevillian, summoned Velazquez to Madrid to become the King's official painter. In this capacity, he began producing portraits in the style of Titian, but his technique became more varied and versatile after his first trip to Italy in 1629. On his return to Madrid, he began a vast series of paintings for the royal residences and numerous portraits of the Madrid court, not only of the king and his various princes but also of the dwarfs and jesters.

A Genious of Color in the Melancholy Splendor of Spain.

These happy drinkers recall Flemish-dutch genre paintings, but without the detached, almost scornful, the tone often conveyed in works by other painters of the period. On the contrary, the smiles of the common folk in Los Borrachos reveal Velazquez empathy for the people, be they kings or princes, peasants or buffoons.

After his second trip to Italy in 1649, Velazquez style changed radically, just as Rembrandt's also did at this time (though in completely different personal and social context). He began painting with long, thick, separate brushstrokes, which conveyed a great intensity. Later, this extremely freestyle was rediscovered by nineteenth-century French painters like Manet and was even an inspiration for Picasso and the modern art movements.

Throughout his life, Velazquez cultivated his own great independent talent, though he constantly admired Italian art of the sixteenth centuries. Like other distinguished masters of his time (Rubens and Rembrandt especially), he closely studied the great paintings of the High Renaissance. This magnificent female nude The Rokeby Venus (in fact the only one Velazquez ever painted) is a stunning homage to Titian's rich flesh tones, free color and palatable fullness of brushwork.

Velazquez, Respecting Royalty and Buffoons alike.

The bizarre “ court of miracles”, consisting of dwarfs, comedians, buffoons, and jesters whose job was to entertain the royal family, constitutes a very peculiar aspect of Velazquez work. Portraits of fools already existed in the frescoes of the Italian Renaissance (for example, in the Camera Degli Sposi (Bridal Chamber) in the Mantua and in Palazzo Schfanoia in Ferrera), but never before had these characters been given so much importance. At times, Velazquez portrays them full length in the same pose and format he uses for the king. He depicts the whims, jests, grimaces, and comic spirit of the buffoons without ever making them seem pathetic or ridiculous. His portraits of dwarfs are the most impressive of all his court buffoon paintings. Disconcertingly he leaves absolutely no room for any sarcasm or mockery of their deformity. On the contrary, he communicates the great dignity, sensitivity, and keen intelligence of these luckless men. The faces, set on what seems to be the bodies of puppets, have an expressive power and moral strength that make the portraits of the enervated, wan courtiers so prevalent in Baroque painting pale even further by comparison.

This masterpiece, Las Meninas, epitomizing seventeenth-century Spanish art, is considered the jewel of the Prado Museum in Madrid. It was painted late in Velazquez career, after his second trip to Italy, and depicts a recurrent scene at court: maids of honor attending to the Infanta Margarita, the king's first born child, in a room of the palace where Velazquez had set up his studio in the Alcazar in Madrid. This room used to be the first-floor apartment of Prince Balthazar and given to the painter as a studio after the Prince's untimely death.

The little girl that dominates the center of the painting resembles a complacent, overdressed doll. She is clearly the focal point and driving force of the whole scene, as she is fussed over by the two very young maids. Unfortunately, Margarita's rosy face was gradually to assume the elongated, slightly horsey features of the Hapsburgs, and the unattractive protruding lower jaw (in the genes of the Spanish royal family from Charles V onward). To the right, the dwarf Maribarbola is another striking portrait in Velazquez's series of court buffoons. A second dwarf, Nicolasito Pertusato, flaunts court etiquette by kicking the dog lying in the foreground.

The apparently simple composition is made more complex by the reflection of the faces of King Philip IV and Queen Marianne of Austria in the mirror on the rear wall. Their reflection in the mirror implies their presence outside of the painting, on the side of the viewer ( like the technique used by Van Eyck in his celebrated Arnolfini Portrait centuries before). Velazquez had drawn us into a sophisticated game by unexpectedly reversing the space. The semblance of the “classic” court portrait proves to be a subtle, intellectual illusion. The composition's ambiguity is underlined by the presence of a self-portrait of the artist in the act of painting this work. The vast canvas is turned away from us, however, and in this position, Velazquez can only paint his model's backs. The cerebral interplay of the inside and outside, in front and behind, becomes a veritable labyrinth.

The leading court painter of his day Diego Velázquez produced numerous portraits of the Spanish royal family and nobility as well as scenes derived from classical mythology. Considering that he is now regarded as one of the greatest painters of all time, it is surprising that his work was little known outside Spain until the early nineteenth century, but his mastery of light and atmosphere had an enormous impact on the Impressionists.

Few artists have enjoyed as much posthumous “success” as Velazquez. Many nineteenth and twentieth-century painters from Goya and Manet to Bacon and Picasso have explicitly cited his works. At times, the original paintings have been analyzed with almost fanatic attention, as in the case of the many variations of Las Meninas produced by Picasso, Bacon, however, is an exception because his derivations of the portrait of Pope Innocent X were executed exclusively from photographs. The painter never wanted to see the original, which hangs in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome.

This masterpiece of historic painting commemorates an episode in the war between Spain and Holland in 1625. Surrender Of Breda The Spears, the defeated Hustings of Nassau symbolically consigns the key of the Breda fortress to the victorious Ambrogio Spinola. Against the backdrop of a desolate landscape with fires of battle still smoldering, the two generals have dismounted and met in a calm atmosphere of mutual respect. Velazquez avoids all rhetoric and accentuates the heart of the episode, its human element. There is no grandiloquent posturing in the ranks of soldiers and nothing distinguishes the victor from the vanquished. For soldiers, war is an exhausting, dirty business with little room for heroics.

Art Movement History: Baroque Art
Artists Influencing Diego Velazquez: Francisco de Herrera, Francisco Pacheco
He Traveled To Italy
Painters Diego Velazquez Influenced: Francisco Goya, Camille Corot, Edouard Manet, James Whistler, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali

Diego Velázquez Hand-Painted Oil Painting Reproductions.

Diego Velázquez Museum Art Replicas on Canvas.