Adoration of the Magi, Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan, Baltasar Carlos on Horseback, Diego Velazquez, Infant Baltasar Carlos with a Dwarf, Infanta Margarita in a white dress, Infanta Margarita in blue dress, Infanta Margarita in pink dress, Luis de Góngora y Argote, Self Portrait, The Jester Don Juan de Austria, The Water Seller of Seville, Venus with the Mirror
Diego Velázquez, « Self-portrait », circa 1650 © Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia.
VIENNA.- The Kunsthistorisches Museum is hosting the first-ever monograph exhibition in a German-speaking country dedicated to Diego Velázquez (1599-1660). Comprising many of his seminal works, the exhibition offers a comprehensive survey of the Spanish court painter’s complex oeuvre. As a result of the dynastic and political connections between the Habsburg rulers in Madrid and Vienna, the Kunsthistorisches Museum holds outstanding portraits by Velázquez, among them charming likenesses of the Spanish infantas. In addition, the show includes numerous masterpieces representing different genres on loan from both the world’s leading museums and private collections that have never been on show in Vienna before.
Diego Velázquez, « Portrait of Luis de Góngora y Argote » (1622). Photo: English Heritage
MORE THAN JUST A PORTRAIT PAINTER
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez was born in Seville. His precocious talent soon brought him to the attention of King Philipp IV, who made the twenty-four-year-old artist his court painter, a position Velázquez retained until the end of his life. Producing official portraits of the king and his family was among the foremost duties of every court painter, but Velázquez extended this to include different members of the court, developing such a modern, psychologically perceptive view of his sitters that his compositions continue to fascinate all who see them
Diego Velázquez, « Portrait of King Philip IV of Spain‘, 1652-53. © KHM
In addition to portraits the artist produced works representing the different genres of contemporary Spanish painting: as a young man he painted religious subjects as well as kitchen still-lifes, later also mythologies and history paintings. However, his open brushwork and refined palette – inspired by Titian and El Greco – set him apart from his contemporaries; his highly individual view of man, of his world and of the plotlines of history differentiate Velázquez’ compositions from contemporary painting, making him unique among his fellow artists. As an outsider or loner he often focused on subject matters selected by himself.
Diego Velázquez, « Venus with the Mirror« , 1648 © London, The National Gallery
Velázquez always deeply admired Titian, who had been ennobled by the Emperor. Velázquez single-mindedly focused on receiving the only adequate reward for his artistic achievements: a knighthood. This alone enabled him to liberate Spanish painting from the constraints of being merely a craft, raising it up and establishing it as one of the liberal arts.
Diego Velázquez, « Infanta Margarita in pink dress« , 1653-1654 © KHM
The exhibition comprises a total of 46 paintings; they are arranged in three sections that reflect the focus of Velázquez’ artistic production. His life can be divided into two clearly separate periods: he spent his youth in Seville, training in the studio of the city’s foremost painter and art historian, the extremely well- connected Francisco Pacheco. In 1618 Velázquez finished his training and married his teacher’s daughter.
Diego Velázquez, « Infanta Margarita in a white dress », 1656 © KHM
After his guild-regulated training and some early successes Velázquez left Seville for Madrid, where he spent the following thirty-seven years at the court of King Philipp IV as a successful courtier, continually rising in the court’s hierarchy. His artistic output was therefore neither steady nor did it evolve naturally, which makes it difficult to date some of his undocumented paintings; there were long phases, for example during the 1640s, when he focused on his court duties rather than on painting.
Diego Velázquez, « Infanta Margarita in blue dress« , 1659 © KHM
This is why the second part of the exhibition is not arranged chronologically; in one section we focus on his official duties as the portrait painter of the king and the royal family, while the final section comprises all those compositions of topics he had chosen himself: myths, fables, landscapes etc.
Diego Velázquez, »Infant Philip Prosper« , circa 1659 © KHM
IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL LOANS
As a result of the close dynastic and political connections that existed between the Habsburgs in Vienna and Madrid in the 17th century the Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum houses outstanding portraits by the court painter of the King of Spain. Our cooperation with the Prado in Madrid, which holds the majority of Velázquez’ works, allows us to show several other important works in Vienna, among them the large “Adoration of the Magi” painted in Seville, the psychologically complex “Apollo in Vulcan’s Forge” painted during Velázquez’ first Italian sojourn, and moving depictions of court dwarfs or hombres del placer such as “Don Juan de Austria” or “Calabazillas”. Also on loan from the Prado are “Baltasar Carlos on Horseback” and a portrait of the king’s brother Don Carlos – the most magnificent full-length portrait from Velázquez’ early years at court – and his celebrated landscape study showing the garden of the Villa Medici in Rome.
Diego Velázquez, « Adoration of the Magi« , 1619 © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Diego Velázquez, « Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan« , 1630 © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Diego Velázquez, « Baltasar Carlos on Horseback« , 1635. Oil on canvas, 209 x 173 cm. © Madrid, Museo del Prado
Other major loans on show in this exhibition are “The Waterseller”, painted in Seville, from Apsley House in London, the bodegones (kitchen still-lifes) from, respectively, the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and “Baltasar Carlos with a Court Dwarf” from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Diego Velázquez, « The Water Seller of Seville » (1622). Photo: English Heritage
Diego Velázquez, « Infant Baltasar Carlos with a Dwarf » (1632) © Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Soon after Velázquez was rediscovered in the 19th century, Eduard Manet celebrated the Spaniard as the “painter of painters” and a forerunner of the Impressionists. In his epoch-making monograph on the Spanish artist (“Velázquez und sein Jahrhundert”) published in 1888 the German Carl Justi introduced Velázquez into German and international art history. Since then Velázquez has been in the centre of art-historical debate – especially in connection with his highly personal and uniquely poetic, highly enigmatic choice of subjects. His pointedly realistic view of things and his remarkable striving for verisimilitude sets him apart from his contemporaries. In the 19th and 20th century his paintings and compositions inspired, among others, Francisco de Goya, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Salvador Dali.
Diego Velázquez, « The Jester Don Juan de Austria », 1633 © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
« The Court Jester Juan de Calabazas (Calabacillas)« , 1637 – 1639 © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
« … I am afraid of the reality of the Velázquez image after I’ve played around with it, » Francis Bacon
The Queen of Spain Letizia in Vienna at the opening. Photo: Georg Hochmuth
APA / EPA / GEORG HOCHMUTH
APA / EPA / GEORG HOCHMUTH
Velàzquez-portraits in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. (Picture alliance / dpa / Herbert Neubauer)