By Darla McCammon
WARSAW — During the Spanish Golden Age, an artist from Seville, and later Madrid, Spain, flourished as King Philip IV favored his work and supported him as one of the world’s best artists. With a full name of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez this artist has understandably been recognized simply as Diego Velázquez. Before he came to the attention of the king, this young man at an early age, was showing remarkable abilities in art. A contract was signed in 1611 to apprentice him for six years to an art teacher in Seville. The student surpassed the teacher (Francisco Pacheco) in a very short time. He also married Juana Pacheco, one of his instructor’s daughters.
Velázquez gained early notice with his bodegone paintings. Bodegones are simply scenes of activities and still life portrayed in kitchens. His painting “Old Woman frying Eggs,” now in the National Gallery in Edinburgh Scotland, is a remarkable example of why his work was considered so special.
Early in 1622, Velázquez and Pacheco traveled to Madrid to bring notice of his good reputation, now well established in Seville, to the King and notables in Madrid. Not long after this trip which had produced several opportunities for Velázquez to demonstrate his ability, the favorite court artist used by King Philip passed away. Velázquez was summoned and commissioned to do a portrait of the king. When completed, it was recognized with great favor by the king. Velázquez was commissioned from that point and moved with his family to Madrid where he lived and worked for the remainder of his life
In 1628 another of our famous artists, Peter Paul Rubens, was sent on a diplomatic mission to Madrid Spain. He encountered Velázquez who was influenced with a desire to visit Italy and see the beautiful works of art created there. King Philip’s patronage was of great benefit to Velázquez who received regular payments as well as opportunities to work on other projects including many requests for portraits and paintings of the royal court and its’ members. Some of those projects did not include paintings, but Velázquez was able to maintain his art work as well as those non-art projects requested by the King.
King Philip gave his approval and sponsorship to Velázquez for a year and a half journey to Italy to see current trends in art and learn what was happening in other cultures. Velázquez was influenced and did make some changes in his style, one of which was to change to a light gray ground (background color) on his creations. From this point, his already notably fine art work, took on a luminosity that greatly improved the resulting and final effect.
Velázquez returned home from Italy to be given the job of helping decorate the King’s new residence, the Palacio del Buen Retiro. He took on this task with relish and completed many new canvases and works of art that were placed in points of prominence. One of his most famous is La rendition de Breda, which is a brilliant painting representing the surrender of Breda showing the victory of Spain over the Dutch. The painting shows the symbolic key to the city of Breda being turned over to the Spanish military following their siege of the city.
There are many wonderful works by Velázquez available to see on the internet and in museums here in the United States.