See image captions below
Say, are you making a portrait or are you bringing it to life?
For this royal image is so surpassingly excellent that I would judge
the canvas to be as alive as insensible things are dead.
Don Juan Vélez de Guevara (1611-1675),
Soneto on a portrait of Philip IV by Velázquez
(English translation by Enriqueta Harris)
This fall, the Meadows Museum welcomes the magnificent
portrait of Philip IV (1623-28), by Diego
Velázquez (1599-1660). This is the third loan from
the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid that comes
to Dallas as part of the groundbreaking three-year
partnership between the Meadows Museum, SMU,
and the Spanish institution. The exhibition, organized
by guest curator Dr. Javier Portús, Senior
Curator of Spanish Painting at the Prado, will also
include a selection of early portraits by Velázquez
from other collections, and will offer visitors the
unique opportunity to view the Meadows’s own
Portrait of King Philip IV (1623-24), by Velázquez,
within the context of other early works by the Spanish
Velázquez painted his first portrait of Philip IV in
1623, when the artist was only twenty-four years
old. The painting was so well received at court that
it assured him his appointment as royal painter to
the Spanish king. According to Velázquez’s father-inlaw,
art theorist Francisco Pacheco (1564-1644), because
of the portrait’s success, the artist was given the
exclusive right to portray the king. Many scholars
have considered the possibility that the Meadows’s
Portrait of King Philip IV is this first portrait of the
king by Velázquez, after which he modeled subsequent
portraits, among these the underlying image
in the Prado’s Philip IV.
In his first royal portraits, Velázquez followed the
established Spanish Habsburg portrait tradition that
favored “icon-like” images with highly finished and
detailed surfaces. But before long, he developed his
own portrait style and surpassed these conventions
by creating new prototypes that influenced the official
imagery of the Spanish kings throughout the
seventeenth century. In his portraits, Velázquez
went beyond the distant representations of royals
and courtiers, and approached the inner self of his
subjects. His solemn and psychological representations
evoked an air of modernity unseen before,
which soon translated into technical inventiveness
marked by vigorous brushstrokes and an extraordinary
economy of means.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, the Prado’s portrait
Philip IV, is a quintessential work within Velázquez’s
oeuvre because the wealth of information
it provides allows for a better understanding of the
artist’s creative process. Radiographs taken from the
Prado’s portrait in 1960 confirmed what was already
slightly visible to the naked eye: at some point, for
reasons still unknown, Velázquez reworked the original
portrait painted for the king, and achieved a
likeness that preserved the characteristic Habsburg
pronounced chin, which had been largely concealed
in the earlier image. In the revised painting,
Velázquez achieves a more elegant composition by determined only after undergoing in-depth analyses
and comparison against other authentic works, such
as the Meadows’s Portrait of King Philip IV.
Among the works that are being lent to the exhibition
is the insightful portrait of one of Spain’s greatest
poets, Luis de Góngora y Argote, painted during Velázquez’s
first stay in Madrid in 1622, which belongs
to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In addition,
Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum will lend its own
Velázquez masterpiece, the Portrait of Don Pedro de
Barberana (c. 1631-33), painted soon after the artist’s
first trip to Italy in 1631. From The Cleveland
Museum of Art comes the enigmatic Portrait of the
Jester Calabazas (c. 1631-32), the first in a series of
court jester portraits Velázquez painted in the 1630s
for the decoration of Philip IV’s pleasure palace in
Madrid, the Palacio del Buen Retiro. This exhibition
will offer an exceptional opportunity for the study
of Velázquez’s portraits by presenting in one place
oustanding examples from his early production. Together,
these works provide an opportunity to more
clearly appreciate the artist’s technique, remarkable
innovation, and other distinctive facets of his style
that explain his success at the court of Philip IV, one
of the most discerning art patrons in the history of
Early Modern art.
Considering that Velázquez’s total artistic production
amounts to just over 100 works, the majority
of which are in the Prado, it is remarkable that the
Meadows Museum has among its holdings three important
paintings by the Spanish master from different
phases in his career: the aforementioned Portrait
of King Philip IV, Female Figure (Sibyl with Tabula
Rasa) (c. 1648), and the Portrait of Queen Mariana c. 1656). Algur H. Meadows’s vision to establish “a
small Prado in Texas” has never been as close to reality
as it will be when this exhibition opens and a
significant selection of works by the artist most closely associated with the Prado are exhibited within the
galleries of the Museum he founded. This impression
is highlighted by having as the central work in the
show the official portrait of the king whose art collection
is the pillar upon which the Museo Nacional
del Prado was established.
The Prado at the Meadows collaboration is under
the scientific direction of Dr. Mark Roglán, Director
of the Meadows Museum, and Dr. Gabriele Finaldi,
Associate Director for Collections and Research at
the Prado Museum. As in the first two successful
installments of this partnership, the exhibition will
be accompanied by a bilingual publication produced
by the Meadows Museum that will present new research
related to the work’s historical context, condition
and conservation, provenance, attribution,
literary connections, and its place within the artist’s
production. In addition, the Museum will organize
a symposium with both national and international
scholars, along with other educational programming.
This exhibition and project have been organized by
the Meadows Museum and the Museo Nacional del
Prado, and are funded by a generous gift from The
Meadows Foundation. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Image captions (top row - left to right):
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660), Philip IV, 1623-27. Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660), Luis de Góngora y Argote, 1622. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Maria Antoinette Evans Fund, 32.79. Image © 2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660), Portrait of Don Pedro de Barberana, c. 1631-33. Oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, AP 1981.14.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660), Portrait of the Jester Calabazas, c. 1631-32. Oil on canvas. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund, 1965.15.
Paulus Pontius (Flemish, 1603-58), Allegorical Portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares, c. 1625. Engraving. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660), Portrait of King Philip IV, 1623-24. Oil on canvas. Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Algur H.
Meadows Collection, MM.67.23. Photo by Michael Bodycomb.
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