“It is the theology of painting” - the Spanish painter Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez

6 June 1599, the Spanish painter Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was born in Seville.

“It is the theology of painting” (the court painter Luca Giordano (1628 – 1704) about Velázquez’ “Las Meninas”)

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez: “Las Meninas” from 1656,
now at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Great art does not always involve the Romantic vision of a tortured artistic soul crucifying oneself with distorted visions induced by a restless soul, lead poisoned paint, alcohol and various drugs, a living on the edge of society, with death imminent from syphilis or tuberculosis, probably both, and creating a masterpiece or three in a chilly attic space. Especially court painters usually lived quite comfortably during the late Renaissance and Baroque era, were involved in various diplomatic tasks as well and usually figured as the walking advertisements of their native country’s and royal patron’s approach on culture in general. The court painters of the Spanish Golden Age of arts and literature between 1500 and 1659 were no exceptions and the greatest among them was Velázquez.

Diego Velázquez: "The Toilet of Venus" (Rokeby Venus, 1647 - 1651)

Besides being one of the greatest portraits of all art epochs, usually distinction enough for one lifetime, Velázquez surpassed the idealising concept of academic art of his life and times, raising his conception of naturalism to an equal stylistic device. Trying to capture things and faces and animals as they were and adding his own perception of dignity and the likenesses of Spanish and other European royalty appear on par with the humiliated and insulted, the court dwarves, jesters and drunks, a notion that did not make its reappearance again until the realists and naturalists of the respective art schools attended to the matter 300 years later. After his death in 1660 at the age of 61in Madrid, Velázquez was conveniently forgotten, until other great ones among the Spanish and later French artists rediscovered his works, first Goya and then Manet and, of course, Picasso and Dali.

Diego Velázquez: "The Surrender of Breda" (1635)

By and large, Velázquez passed through three stages in his development as an artist, his first works is characterised by rich impasto and brown shadows, later he learned more about daylight and its influence on the colours of people and objects until, in his last period, everything is shrouded in cool greys and painted in light singular brushstrokes on large canvasses, almost impressionistic. But the perspective and the blurring of perception, reality and illusion in one of his last, probably best known work, “Las Meninas”, the Maids of Honour, is something different altogether, even though the Renaissance and Baroque saw a lot of stunning experiments in this regard before. Velázquez himself looks at the viewer from the left, with a rare mixture of self-criticism and content, having left one of the most discussed paintings in Western art.

And more on Velázquez on:


and “Las Meninas” on