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282. THE ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS.
Velazquez (1599-1660). See under 1129, p. 376. An early work of the painter, in his first manner, when it was founded on the style of Ribera and Caravaggio. A glance at 172 in an adjoining room (XIII., p. 327) will show the similarity in a moment. “No Virgin ever descended into Velazquez's studio. No cherubs hovered around his pallet. He did not work for priest or ecstatic anchorite, but for plumed kings and booted knights ; hence the neglect and partial failure of his holy and mythological pictures-holy, like those of Caravaggio, in nothing but name-groups rather of low life, and that so truly painted as still more to mar, by a treatment not in harmony with the subject, the elevated sentiment” (Ford : Handbook for Travellers in Spain). In the distance is the guiding angel as the star of the Epiphany; but there is little adoration in the rough peasant group. It is, however, a pretty piece of observation of child nature that makes Velazquez paint the boy offering his animals to the infant Christ. One remembers George Eliot's "young Daniel” (in Scenes of Clerical Life), who says to Mr. Gilfil, by way of making friends, “We've got two pups, shall I show 'em yer ? One's got white spots."
1229. VIRGIN AND CHILD.
Luis de Morales (1509–1586). Luis de Morales was born at Badajos, and is one of the most native of Spanish artists. He did not resort to Italy, such foreign influence as is discernible in him being rather that of the Flemings; and the religious sanctity of his work won him the surname of “the Divine.” He was very largely commissioned by churches and convents, and his fame spread over Spain. He was called to the court of Philip II. in 1563, but was dismissed as soon as he had painted one picture, and thereafter he fell into great poverty. He had appeared at court, it is said, “in the style of a grand seigneur,” which seemed to the king and his courtiers absurd in a mere painter, and was the cause of their disfavour. Some years later, however, the king, learning of his poverty, granted him a pension. In his earlier period, Morales painted crowded compositions with numerous figures ; in his later, smaller pictures, such as the one before us.
1 “The Venetians and Velazquez are never wrong, at least after his style was formed ; early pictures, like the 'Adoration of the Magi' in our Gallery, are of little value" (Two Paths, Appendix i.)
1129. KING PHILIP IV. OF SPAIN.
Velazquez (1599–1660). Don Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez was born at Seville of well-to-do parents—his father's name being Silva, his mother's Velazquez. His talent for drawing quickly showed itself, and when only twenty he married Juana, the daughter of his second master, Pacheco (his first being another painter of Seville, Herrera). Pacheco's house, says one of the Spanish historians, was “the golden prison of painting," and it was here that Velazquez met Cervantes, and obtained his first introduction to the brilliant circle in which he was himself to shine. In Pacheco's company he went in 1622 to Madrid, where he had influential friends, and next year he was invited to return by Olivares, the king's great minister. Olivares persuaded the king to sit to Velazquez for his portrait. The portrait was a complete success, and the painter stepped at once into fame and favour. This immediate success is characteristic of his extraordinary facility. “Just think," says Mr. Ruskin, “ what is implied when a man of the enormous power and facility that Reynolds had, says he was trying to do with great labour' what Velazquez • did at once."" Velazquez shows indeed “the highest reach of technical perfection yet attained in art; all effort and labour seeming to cease in the radiant peace and simplicity of consummate human power"? (Two Paths, § 68; Fors Clavigera, 1876, p. 188). From the time of this first portrait of Philip IV. onwards, the life of Velazquez was one long triumph. He was not only the favourite but the friend of the king. He was made in succession painter to the king, keeper of the wardrobe, usher of the royal chamber, and chamberlain, and offices were also found for his friends and relations. He lived in the king's palace on terms of close intimacy, painting the king and his family in innumerable attitudes, and accompanying him on his royal progresses. When our Charles I., then Prince of Wales, visited Madrid in 1623, Velazquez painted his portrait, and figured in all the royal fêtes held in the English prince's honour. The Duke of Buckingham, it would seem, was also his friend, and Velazquez saw something too of Rubens, when the latter came on his diplomatic mission to Madrid (see p. 222). In 1630 he obtained permission to travel in Italy, and the journey was important to him as marking the beginning of his maturer style. He travelled with recommendations from the king, and wherever he went -- Venice, Ferrara, Rome, Naples,- he was received with all the honours accorded to princes. His second visit to Italy was in 1648, when the king sent him to buy pictures
Similarly Raphael Mengs, a later Spanish painter, said of Velazquez that he appears to have painted with his will only, without the aid of his hand. Of the striking truth of Velazquez's portraits, there is this story told. A certain Admiral Pareja had been ordered to sea ; the king entering Velazquez's studio soon after and seeing, as he thought, the admiral in the corner, exclaimed, “What, still here?" But it was not the admiral, it was his portrait by Velazquez.
with the view of forming a Spanish Academy. At Rome he painted the portrait of the Pope (Innocent X.), which made so great a mark that it was carried in triumphal procession, like Cimabue's picture of old. His royal master, however, became impatient for his return, and he hurried back to Madrid, after giving commissions to all the leading artists then at Rome. On his return he was given fresh honours and offices--especially that of Quarter Master, whose duty it was to superintend the personal lodgment of the king during excursions. It was the duties of this office which were the immediate cause of his death. He accompanied the king to the conference at Irun-on the “ Island of the Pheasants ”—which led to the marriage of Louis XIV. with the Infanta Maria Teresa. There is a picture of him at Versailles by the French artist Lebrun, which was painted on this occasion. The portrait, sombre and cadaverous looking, was no doubt true to life ; and when Velazquez returned to Madrid, it was found that his exertions in arranging the royal journey had sown the seeds of a fever, from which after a week's illness he died. Seven days later his wife died of grief, and was buried at his side.
Though Velazquez spent all his life, as we have seen, amongst the great ones of the earth, no trace of vanity or meanness is discernible in his character. Mr. Ruskin (Two Paths, ss 62, 65) connects his sweetness of disposition with the truthfulness which was characteristic of his art. “The art which is especially dedicated to natural fact always indicates a peculiar gentleness and tenderness of mind, and all great and successful work of that kind will assuredly be the production of thoughtful, sensitive, carnest, kind men, large in their views of life, and full of various intellectual power . . . (One instance is Reynolds). The other painter whom I would give you as an instance of this gentleness is a man of another nation, on the whole I suppose one of the most cruel civilised nations in the world, -the Spaniards. They produced but one great painter, only one; but he among the very greatest of painters, Vel. azquez. You would not suppose, from looking at Velazquez's portraits generally, that he was an especially kind or good man ; you perceive a peculiar sternness about them ; for they were as true as steel, and the persons whom he had to paint being not generally kind or good people, they were stern in expression, and Velazquez gave the sternness; but he had precisely the same intense perception of truth, the same marvellous instinct for the rendering of all natural soul and all natural form that our Reynolds had. Let me, then, read you his character as it is given by Mr. Stirling (afterwards Sir W. Stirling-Maxwell) : Certain charges, of what nature we are not informed, brought against him after his death, made it necessary for his executor to refute them at a private audience granted to him by the king for that purpose. After listening to the defence of his friend, Philip immediately made answer, “I can believe all you say of the excellent disposition of Diego Velazquez.” Having lived for half his life in courts, he was yet capable both of gratitude and generosity. ... No mean jealousy ever influenced his conduct to his brother artists; he could afford not only to acknowledge
the merits, but to forgive the malice of his rivals. His character was of that rare and happy kind, in which high intellectual power is com. bined with indomitable strength of will, and a winning sweetness of temper."" Nothing shows his character better than his treatment of Murillo, who came to Madrid, an unfriended youth, in 1640. Velazquez received him to his house, gave directions for his admission to all the galleries and for permission to copy, presented him to the king, procured him commissions, and offered him facilities for making the journey to Rome.
The chief characteristics of Velazquez's art have been already incidentally alluded to. His style, in its maturity, is distinguished by unerring facility and by the closest fidelity to natural fact. And then, lastly, this truthfulness had its reward in making Velazquez distinguished also amongst all Spanish painters by the sparkling purity of his colour. “ Colour is, more than all elements of art, the reward of veracity of purpose. . . . In giving an account of anything for its own sake, the most important points are those of form. Nevertheless, the form of the object is its own attribute; special, not shared with other things. An error in giving an account of it does not necessarily involve wider error. But its colour is partly its own, partly shared with other things round it. The hue and power of all broad sunlight is involved in the colour it has cast upon this single thing ; to falsify that colour, is to misrepresent and break the harmony of the day : also, by what colour it bears, this single object is altering hues all round it ; reflecting its own into them, displaying them by opposition, sostening them by repetition; one falsehood in colour in one place, implies a thousand in the neighbourhood. ... Hence the apparent anomaly that the only schools of colour are the schools of Realism. ... Velazquez, the greatest colourist, is the most accurate portrait painter of Spain” (Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. ix. ch. xi. & 8 n.)
The king is younger here than in 745, p. 383 ; hanging from his chain is the order of the Golden Fleece. Notice also that the head is not so minutely painted here as in 745 ; that being a bust portrait would be seen near, this being a full-length would naturally be placed above the level of the eye. The smaller picture might be called, in the art-slang of to-day, “a harmony in black and gold ; " this, from the shimmer on its lace and the flashing on the rapier hilt, “a harmony in black and silver."
197. A WILD BOAR HUNT.
Velazquez (1599-1660). See under 1129, P. 376. A very interesting picture, both for the sparkling brilliancy of its execution and for the truth with which it reproduces the court life of the time. Philip IV. was as fond of the chase as he was of the arts; and here we see some state
hunting -party in a royal enclosure. (such as was arranged, no doubt, for the pleasure of our Charles I. when he visited Madrid), with an array of huntsmen and guards, and magnificent carriages for the ladies of the court. Notice also the two splendid dogs near the left-hand corner. Velazquez is very great in painting dogs; he “has made some of them nearly as grand as his surly kings” (Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. ix. ch. vi. § 13). With regard to the execution of the picture (which was bought in 1846 and was alleged to have been damaged in cleaning) Mr. Ruskin wrote: “I have seldom met with an example of the master which gave me more delight, or which I believed to be in more genuine or perfect condition. ... (The critic's) complaint of loss of substance in the figures of the foreground is, I have no doubt, altogether groundless. He has seen little southern scenery if he supposes that the brilliancy and apparent nearness of the silver clouds is in the slightest degree overcharged ; and shows little appreciation of Velazquez in supposing him to have sacrificed the solemnity and might of such a distance to the inferior interest of the figures in the foreground. ... The position of the horizon suggests, and the lateral extent of the foreground proves, such a distance between the spectator and even its nearest figures as may well justify the slightness of their execution. Even granting that some of the upper glazings of the figures had been removed, the tone of the whole picture is so light, gray, and glittering, and the dependence on the power of its whites so absolute, that I think the process hardly to be regretted which has left these in lustre so precious, and restored to a brilliancy which a comparison with any modern work of similar aim would render apparently supernatural, the sparkling motion of its figures and the serene snow of its sky” i (Arrows of the Chace, i. 58-60).
This was written in 1847. In 1853 some "horrible revelations" were made about the picture before the Select Committee on the National Gallery. Mr. Ruskin turned out to be curiously wrong, but also curiously right. He was wrong; for so far from the picture being "in genuine and perfect condition," a considerable portion of the canvas, as we now see it, turned out to be not by Velazquez's hand at all. Lord Cowley, its former owner, had sent it to a Mr. Thane, a picture dealer, to be relined. A too hot iron was used, and a portion of the paint entirely disappeared. Thane was in despair. The picture haunted him at nights. He saw the figure of it in his dreams becoming more and more attenuated until it appeared at length a skeleton. He was near going mad over it, when a good angel came to his rescue in the shape of Lance, the flower and fruit painter