⒈ Diego Velazquez Research Paper

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Diego Velazquez Research Paper



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Las Meninas: Is This The Best Painting In History?

Velazquez's experimentation with different perspectives and his ability to draw the viewer into the drama of the artwork were unparalleled by his contemporaries. The light source in this work enters from our left and appears centered on or near Christ's head. This creates illuminated faces and a darkened background. The primary focus is on Christ; he emanates a quiet, pensive presence while the disciples react with movements and expressions of surprise or emotional confusion.

The many diagonals pull us into and around the composition. The dark figure with an outstretched arm and his back to the viewer in the foreground leans in and over the table. The man across from him leans toward Christ, and gestures in his direction even as he addresses his fellow disciple. All hands visible are near Christ, who gazes up, out of the immediate space. His light colored, garmented arm and hand form a curve leading into the center of the scene. The table with a white cover stabilizes the middle ground to help us understand the dramatic, active arrangement. The scene is a depiction of Bacchus, or Dionysis, the god who rewards men with wine, temporarily releasing them from their problems.

In Baroque literature, Bacchus was considered an allegory of the liberation of man from the slavery of daily life. In the painting, the god is surrounded by eight drinkers, which was a rare subject in Spanish painting. Drunkenness was condemned in Spain but the royal court found it entertaining to bring in low-life people from comedy theaters and inebriate them for the amusement of the ladies. The painting is firm and solid in its figures while the light and dark areas show an evolution from Velazquez's former works.

The composition was devised using many diagonals and complex focal points to involve the viewer. On the left, Bacchus and the satyr behind him are quite naked except for the traditional loose cloths of classical mythology. Bacchus is posed and vividly illuminated; he looks out of the painting as he places a leafy wreath on a man in a golden jacket kneeling before him. An extremely dark mythological figure crouches in the lower left. The right side of the composition is made up of several darkly clothed older men who are drinking and conversing. Two of the men look directly out at the viewer as if to invite them in to the merriment. The piece is noted for its use of Velazquez's signature naturalism, that even when transposed upon a subject of mythical proportions manages to maintain a sense of realism - practically welcoming the spectator to partake in the dreamy scene.

Content compiled and written by Cheryl Van Buskirk. Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Kimberly Nichols. The Art Story. The Baroque. It is Titian that bears the banner. Manet went to Madrid to look at Velazquez's work and later wrote to his fellow painter, Henri Fantin-Latour: This is the most astonishing piece of painting that has ever been made. The background disappears. It is air that surrounds the fellow. In Cortes conquered Michoacan, a territory near the volcano. By , he had conquered all of present-day Mexico and Central America. But in , the Spanish officials kicked Cortes out of Mexico. In , Cortes finally got back to Spain and was amazed at his popularity. But even this great welcome would not hold Cortes in Spain.

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Rubens urged Velazquez to visit Italy where he believed real art began. He went to Genoa and Venice where he saw the work of Titian, whom he had admired since the days of his apprenticeship in Seville and whose influence upon his work was of dominance. He also visited Florence and Rome where the works of many masters were available for him to study. He stayed in Rome for almost a year, where he copied the master paintings and worked on his own canvases. By , he was working on decorating the Buen Retiro palace. Velazquez painted the scene of the ceremonious handing over of the keys to the fortress of Breda. That painting has been described as a superlative historical piece of work, perhaps the best in Western Europe. As Laura Cumming describes, " Rome was his freedom He also took on many assistants and pupils, who unfortunately were not of the same artistic caliber.

Yet far from indicating any decline due to these tasks, his works of this period are amongst the highest examples of his style. Velazquez's last major work was a group portrait of the Spanish Royal Family titled Las Meninas Until the 19 th century, Velazquez's work was little known outside of Spain. In , the Scottish artist, Sir David Wilkie, wrote from Madrid that he felt Velazquez was a new presence and power in art. He also sensed a relationship between Velazquez and the British school of portrait painters, especially Sir Henry Raeburn. As a teenage art student at Madrid's Royal Academy of Fine Arts in and , Picasso spent time in the galleries of the Prado, where he copied the works of Velazquez. Las Meninas was so influential that it led Picasso to recreate it 58 times in his late Cubist style in the s.

In the end, Velazquez's greatest contribution to art was in his ability to respectfully toe the line between tradition and modernity in a way that sparked both lovers of art and other artists simultaneously. Bacon has described Velazquez's genius as such: "One wants to do this thing of just walking along the edge of the precipice, and in Velazquez it's very, very extraordinary that he has been able to keep it so near to what we call illustration and at the same time so deeply unlock the greatest and deepest things that man can feel.

In today's contemporary art spheres we continue to find Velazquez's lasting impressions. The same painting inspired the central theme of the play Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, in which a South Asian Muslim man is painted by his white wife in its style. Content compiled and written by Cheryl Van Buskirk.

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