“His landscapes are unprecedented; his still lifes almost sacramental; his fables are real and human.”

June 12, 2016 at 10:22 pm (Art)

And yet, with all of this, it’s in his portraiture that Diego Velasquez’s genius utterly excelled:

His portraits are not just the living, breathing likeness, but the seeing, feeling being in the very moment of life and thought. Nobody has ever surpassed his way of making pictures that seem to represent the experience–the immediacy–of seeing in themselves.

Laura Cumming in The Vanishing Velasquez

dwarfportrait

Portrait of Sebastien de Morra  c. 1645

These Taschen art books have become great favorites with me. The local library system owns quite a few of them. Just enter “Taschen” in the keyword field and you’ll get a list.

Retrato_del_Papa_Inocencio_X._Roma,_by_Diego_Velázquez

Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650. Upon first beholding the portrait, the Pope is said to have exclaimed, “Troppo vero” (“Too true”)

This portrait inspired Francis Bacon to create his “Screaming Pope” series. Officially titled “Study after Velasquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” Bacon painted over forty-five variants on this theme. Here are three:

francis-bacon  francis-bacons-untitled-p-010-1

Probably the best known

Probably the best known

Is it just me, or are these like something out of a nightmare?

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s the magnificent portrait of Juan de Pareja:

Retrato_de_Juan_Pareja,_by_Diego_Velázquez

Juan de Pareja had a fascinating life. A good entry point to the story is the wonderful children’s book I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino.  JuandeParejabook

I well recall the excitement generated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s acquisition of this masterpiece, The year was 1971; the cost was upwards of $5.5 million dollars. We couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of it, my mother and I. And now, though I’ve seen it many times since, it never fails to astonish.

 

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