Xanthe Brooke

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The 400th anniversary in 1999 of the birth of the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez (b. 1599–d. 1660), the leading artist at the court of Philip IV whose influence has subsequently been felt on artists as varied as Manet and Picasso, was celebrated with numerous exhibits, conferences, and related publications. The most important of these publications was Portús 2000 (cited under Anthologies and Bibliographies), an invaluable bibliography of Velázquez studies published between 1962 and 1999 that built on a previous Spanish bibliography by J. A. Gaya Nuño: Bibliografía critica y antologia de Velázquez (Madrid, 1963). Because Portús’s bibliography is so comprehensive, this article focuses mainly on the publications that appeared in or since1999, although key works before that period are also included. It is typical of Velázquez’s work that key masterpieces do not fit neatly into the traditional artistic genres: his bodegones (kitchen and inn scenes) also reveal religious imagery; Las Meninas is both court portrait and scene from everyday artistic life; The Spinners shows working life yet alludes to classical mythology and provides a pictorial commentary on the work of Velázquez’s artistic contemporaries and predecessors. So rather than subsuming paintings into broadly defined sections on religious or genre paintings, this article includes sections on individual key works. Twentieth-century Velázquez studies have witnessed methodological shifts from a concern with the artist himself or attention to the works, during which the emphasis has mainly been on textual sources and the compositional influence of European prints (showing that Velázquez’s supremely naturalistic style was not only inspired by nature), to an increasing attention to the paintings’ reception. The decade following 2000 saw the publication of studies on particular discrete periods or aspects of Velázquez’s career and work, focusing on his early career in Seville and the development of naturalism, his late paintings and technique, and the reputation of his art in countries such as Britain, Italy, France, and the United States. There has been a boom in studies on individual paintings. The increasing cultural role played by museums is evident in the preponderance of exhibit catalogues, which often develop an especial focus on the technical examination of Velázquez’s works. Art historians and conservation scientists have collaborated to analyze paintings, providing new information on the genesis and elaboration of pictures, which is particularly valuable given the paucity of Velázquez drawings to throw light on his working methods. Despite the centuries of research, there are still few letters known from Velázquez about his artistic practice, which means that commentaries by near contemporaries such as Antonio Palomino are still required reading (see Harris 1982, cited under Biographies, Monographs, and Overviews).

Article.  13698 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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