Vermeer's contemporaries: Madrid


In Spain, the era of Hapsburg domination was at hand, along with a somewhat sugary, celebratory Pietism which perfectly corresponded with the religious aspirations of the Spanish Court and the royal couple (Philip IV and Marie-Anne of Austria, daughter of Emperor Ferdinand II). Zurburan was out of fashion; he died in misery, forgotten by all. Murilli was triumphant, but Velasquez was the official Court painter.

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In Zurburan's strict adherence to Caravaggio's principles, one can find the silence, austerity and symbolism which characterize Caravaggio's work.

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This very baroque celebration, but with the religious fervor diluted, is admirably painted. Parts of it, however, are too reminiscent of Rubens, Van Dyke or Raphael to have its own true personality.

Velasquez had gone to Italy and was one of the first to be truly shocked by Caravaggio's work.

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This youthful work was painted upon his return from Italy. The strict adherence to Caravaggio's principles can be seen in the taste for the symbol that character himself represents, in the composition's rigor and silence. Later, Velasquez would adopt the use of fresh colors, broken up by blacks and whites, to paint the streets and its people.

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This last painting was presented to the Duke of Wellington by the King of Spain, along with two Raphaels. It was Velasquez' first masterpiece.

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Even more silent, more immobile and more unfathomable than Caravaggio, he nearly equals his contemporary Georges de la Tour.

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Velasquez had to serve the Spanish Court. It was out of the question to treat Philip and Marie-Anne " la Caravaggio". With the esthetics thus being requestioned, he became prodigious in rendering cloth, in placing people and succeeded in turning puppets and models - which was what the king and queen were - into quasi heroic beings.

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Velasquez painted the royal couple dozens of times during his life. Here, from all the way in the back of the painting, they are contemplating their daughter, the Infanta Margarita, the blondest, who fascinated the painter and who can be found at all ages, as he painted her throughout his career.
What craftsmanship! The representation of cloth flowers on the Infanta's corsage is worthy of Manet...

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Still a little girl, wearing an unbelievable dress in blue silk with silver frogs, she shows the seriousness her position in the Court. The willow hoops clicked like castanets when she walked. This painting is incredibly cold, but it was still the one that Marie Anne chose to send to her family in Vienna.

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One year later, an Infanta Margarita in a silver and pink dress, tender beyond officialdom. He has succeeded in suggesting the entire cloth's silver lame with liberty, quickness and science. The formal handkerchief, like a shimmering color set on the dress, becomespractically nonexistent. The queen would keep this painting.

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A terrifying portrait, dressed as a provincial notary, in black with a white collar, almost Dutch in its austerity.

This king who resembles a valet should have been replaced by a valet who resembles a king...

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The Duke of Olivares was a minister. Velasquez represents him as a king, for he was Spain's true master.

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When Velasquez had to paint Spain's young Infante, he perched him on the same horse, in the same scenery and with the same imperial attitude of the Duke of Olivares. How better to show this child's weakness and sickliness? It is an "inverted" version of the DUKE OF OLIVARES.

Velasquez is one of the only official historical painters to have gone beyond his mandate as a portraitist to take on the role of reporting on his era. Each portrait gives us a thought-out, mature and proven vision of the Court, the high nobility, the king, the queen and their children.