Diego Velazquez, who was baptized (and born presumably just a few weeks prior to) June 6th, 1599, in Seville, Spain! Velazquez had an incredibly prolific career as a court painter to Philip IV, at point being tasked with helping the king open an Academy of Art in Spain and, towards the end of his life, the king appointed Velazquez as the aposentador mayor, a position in which he was to look after the quarters occupied by the court. In April 1622 Velazquez traveled to Madrid, where he painted a portrait of a prolific poet Luis de Gongora. In December of that same year, the king’s court painter died, and Velazquez was instructed by Don Juan de Fonseca, a chaplain to the King, that he was being commanded to the court by Count-Due of Olivares, a minister of Philip IV. Count Olivares became one of the painter’s constant patrons, being the subject of many works that both flatter and dignify the Count. With these paintings, Velazquez has repaid a debt he felt he owed to Olivares, even standing by him when the powerful minister fell from grace of the King, thus exposing himself to great wrath of Philip, however, the King never turned his anger towards his favorite artist. One of the paintings Velazquez made of the king depicts him wearing a golilla, a stiff collar that projected at right angle from the neck, typically made out of linen. Philip IV was the inventor of such an accessory and it quickly became the most fashionable adornment, and thus appeared in most male portraits of the time. Taking in consideration that Velazquez was the King’s favorite, it is no surprise that he followed him to Lerida, where the King was a conqueror. It was there that he executed a painting of him leading the troops, something that the King never actually did.
In addition to the forty portraits that Diego painted of Philip IV, he also executed many portraits of other royal family members, as well as soldiers, churchmen, Cavaliers and poets. Velazquez even painted many dwarfs and buffoons, and as evident in The Favorite, it was always with respect and almost sympathy that these were executed, showing one as an intelligent man, with an ink bottle and pen, hinting at him being the more well read and educated out of the bunch. Upon his return from his second Italian trip in 1651, Velazquez was appointed aposentador mayor by the King, and although the artist feared it would greatly reduce his time spent on painting, neither his technique nor output suffered from the extra responsibilities.
Velazquez has been a great influence on many artists, most notably Edouard Manet, in the sense that both artists were viewed as links between two art movements, with the latter bridging realism, a technique which Velazquez himself was recognized and praised for, and impressionism, while Velazquez achieved this centuries prior by introducing incredible clarity and use of vivid brushwork to the world of Baroque art. In addition to Manet, Pablo Picasso was greatly influenced by Velazquez, who paid homage to the artist by creating his own version of Diego’s Las Meninas, painted in 1656. Picasso did this by creating 58 variations of his own Las Meninas in 1957, with of course his now famous Cubist twist. Salvador Dali joined Picasso in honoring the prolific artist with his work Velazquez Painting the Infanta Margarita With the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory, executed in 1958. In 1950, Francis Bacon paid homage to Velazquez by creating his own rendition of the portrait of Pope Innocent X, which itself, during the time of its execution was a notable work. Painted in 1650 in Rome, the portrait depicts the Pope in such a cold and almost menacing manner that the Vatican feared the artist might have angered the Pope with his work, however, the portrait was well received and Diego was even gifted a medal and gold chain by the Pope. Francis Bacon’s rendition of the portrait presents the Pope in a much more horrid light. With a zombie like presence, the Pope now appears to have been deceased for a few centuries. Pictured here is Diego Velazquez, The Supper at Emmaus, 1622-23, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York