Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Velázquez Rediscovered

Velázquez Rediscovered
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
November 17, 2009-February 7, 2008

Although the Metropolitan Museum has owned a painting called Portrait of a Man
by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez — indeed, has had it hanging on its walls for years — it was not until last summer that this great work of art
was “re-discovered.”

Portrait of a Man has been “re-discovered” in the sense that it was formerly ascribed by the Museum to the workshop of Velázquez but now, following its cleaning and restoration, has been reattributed to the master himself.

This beautiful painting is once again on exhibit, this time alongside seven other Velázquez masterpieces from the Museum's collection of this great Spanish painter.
Keith Christiansen, John-Pope-Hennessy Chairman of European Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, welcomes guests to the press preview.
Jonathan Brown, Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Mr. Brown is the author of the authoritative monograph in English on Velázquez. Keith Christiansen and Time Magazine's Chris Porterfield.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
Spanish, 1599–1660
Portrait of a Man
Oil on canvas
In 1917 the German scholar August Mayer argued that this arresting picture was a self-portrait of Velázquez. The idea was based on the observation that the same figure appears in the painter’s great Surrender of Breda (1634–35; Museo del Prado, Madrid) and the widespread belief, current at the time, that that figure was a self-portrait. Cleaning of the painting has confirmed Mayer’s attribution. By contrast, the identity of the sitter is uncertain.
Michael Gallagher, Met's Conservator in charge of Paintings Conservation who worked on this exhibition, and in particular, on this masterpiece. It has rightly been questioned whether Velázquez would have been permitted to introduce his portrait into a picture as important as the Surrender of Breda, which illustrates a historical event and was destined to decorate a royal residence. He no doubt would have needed permission to do so, and, knowing what we do about notions of decorum and hierarchy at the court of Philip IV, would permission have been granted?
Nonetheless, there remain intriguing physiognomic similarities with Velázquez’s two certain self-portraits, and there will be those who continue to entertain the idea that the Museum’s painting is, indeed, a self-portrait—perhaps even the one listed in an inventory of the artist’s possessions drawn up in July 1661: “A portrait of Diego Velázquez, the costume unfinished” (Un retrato de Diego Belázquez, por acauar el bestido).
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599–1660)
The Supper at Emmaus, 1622–23
Oil on canvas
Christ is shown at the moment when he is recognized by two astonished disciples following his resurrection ("He took bread, blessed and broke it, and handed it to them; then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him," Luke 24:30-31). The realism of the figures, the strong raking light, and the attention to still-life details recall the work of Caravaggio, which Velázquez would have known in Seville through copies. The same model employed for the disciple seen full face was used by the artist in other canvases, most notably The Waterseller of Seville (Wellington Museum, London). The picture seems to date 1622-23; it may have been painted in Seville, where Velázquez was trained, or in Madrid, where he moved in 1623.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599–1660)
Don Gaspar de Guzmán (1587–1645), Count-Duke of Olivares, ca. 1635
Oil on canvas

The count-duke of Olivares was Philip IV’s powerful prime minister from 1621 to 1643. This picture is either a preliminary study or a reduced version of a large equestrian portrait of Olivares (Museo del Prado, Madrid) painted perhaps to celebrate a victory over the French at Fuenterrabía in 1638.

Olivares was toasted as librador de la patria and appointed governor of the border town. In full armor and holding a baton, he is shown as a victorious commander. His horse holds a dressage position known as a levade.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599–1660)
María Teresa (1638–1683), Infanta of Spain
Oil on canvas
The daughter of Philip IV of Spain and of Isabella of Bourbon, María Teresa became presumptive to the throne upon the death of her brother, Prince Baltasar Carlos, in 1646; in 1660 she married Louis XIV, her first cousin, and became queen of France. This portrait was painted between 1651 and 1654 and may have been employed by Velázquez's workshop as a model for official portraits of the Infanta. She wears a wig decorated with Butterfly ribbons. The picture was drastically cut down; a copy in the Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows her to the waist.
Walter Bernard, one of the greats when it comes
to magazine design, who is presently a visual consultant for ESPN.
Barbara Hoffman, art critic for The New York Post. Her reviews are always thoughtful and intelligent.
Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo
Spanish, ca. 1612-1667
María Teresa (1638-1683), Infanta of Spain
Oil on canvas

Throughout the 19th century this portrait was admired as the work of Velázquez. It depicts the favorite daughter of Philip IV, who married Louis XIV, her first cousin, and became queen of France. She must have been about six or seven when this picture was painted and is shown with a pet dog, a motif that introduces a more intimate mood into an otherwise formal picture. The picture was first ascribed to Juan Bautista del Mazo in 1909. The most gifted pupil of Velázquez, Mazo married the artist's daughter in 1633 and went on to have a highly successful career. He is generally credited with some of the finest imitations of his father-in-law's style.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660)
Juan de Pareja (born about 1610, died 1670)
Oil on canvas

This extraordinary portrait shows Velázquez’s slave of Moorish descent, who served as an assistant in his workshop. Painted in Rome, it was displayed publicly beneath the portico of the Pantheon in March 1650. Velázquez clearly intended to impress his Italian colleagues with his unique artistry. Indeed, we are told that the picture “gained such universal applause that in the opinion of all the painters of the different nations, everything else seemed like painting but this alone like truth.” Velázquez managed to convey not only the physical presence of the sitter but his proud character: he became a painter in his own right and was freed by Velázquez in 1654.
Art Historian, Lisa Hahn. Ms. Hahn is the President of Art Horizons International.
Catalogue $9.95 (non-members); 24 pages, 21 illustrations, 16 in full color; with a forward by Met Director, Thomas P. Campbell and excellent essays by Keith Christiansen, Jonathan Brown, and Michael Gallagher. The portrait after cleaning and restoration in the Sherman Fairchild Center for Paintings Conservation. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.