For Immediate Release
April 25, 2007
Early Velázquez painting from National Gallery in London, "The Immaculate Conception," now on view through May 31 at The Meadows Museum
Lecture Series in May will discuss painting from theological, historical, and art historical perspective
DALLAS (SMU)—A new collaboration between the Meadows Museum in Dallas and the National Gallery of Art in London has resulted in the loan of a significant major painting to the Dallas museum, marking the first time the National Gallery has lent this painting to a U.S. institution: the stunning Immaculate Conception (c. 1618) by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), one of the most important painters in the history of art.
The most significant and long-anticipated retrospective on Velázquez in Great Britain was held at the National Gallery last winter, and prominently featured an important and popular painting loaned by the Meadows Museum, Female Figure (Sybil with Tabula Rasa), c. 1648. When the exhibition closed, the National Gallery in turn loaned its Immaculate Conception to the Meadows for display through May 31.
A major work from the artist’s early period in Seville, the Immaculate Conception is a temporary addition to the Meadows Museum’s own collection of three Velázquez works. It is the only religious painting by the artist, as well as the only work from his early period, in the galleries; the Meadows’ other paintings by Velázquez are later and secular works, painted after he moved to Madrid and became the court painter to King Philip IV.
“The loan presents an excellent opportunity to better appreciate the artistic excellence of such an important painter, who, as this work reveals, had the ability to render a figure with stunning realism while manipulating dramatic inflections of light in order to make her truly appear divine,” said Mark Roglán, director of the Meadows Museum. “It is amazing to consider that Velázquez was only in his late teens when he created this work; his mastery is evident even at this early age.” Considered by some scholars to be a portrait of a woman known to Velázquez—possibly even Juana Pacheco, the daughter of his teacher and mentor, whom he married around the same time he painted the Immaculate Conception—Velázquez’s image of the Virgin may be both portrait and religious painting.
The Immaculate Conception, one of the most popular subjects in Golden Age Spanish painting, is the belief that the Virgin Mary is free from mankind’s original sin, and it was a topic of intense theological debate in the Church in 17th-century Europe. As a central doctrine of the Counter-Reformation, belief in the Immaculate Conception was fervent in Spain, and consequently many works of art were dedicated to the subject, as the Meadows Museum’s own numerous canvases of the Immaculate Conception illustrate. The doctrine was particularly popular in Seville, where devotion to Mary and the defense of her purity was exceptionally strong.
Painted in Seville and possibly commissioned by the city’s Convent of the Shod Carmelites, who were known for their passionate arguments in favor of the Immaculate Conception, Velázquez’s painting demonstrates the artist’s mastery at treating such profound and religious themes. The painting also highlights important iconographic traditions popular in 17th-century Seville which were promoted by artists like Velázquez and his teacher and father-in-law, Francisco Pacheco. Pacheco was an artist and writer who in 1649 published Arte de la Pintura, which includes detailed recommendations to painters on how to depict the iconography of sensitive religious subjects such as the Immaculate Conception. The comparison of Velázquez’s work with other 17th and early 18th-century paintings of the Immaculate Conception in the Meadows Museum’s permanent collection, such as those by Bartolomé Murillo, Juan de Sevilla and Antonio de Palomino, provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about this fascinating dogma and its role in Golden Age Spanish painting.
To celebrate this important loan, the museum will host a three-part lecture series in May examining the painting from theological, historical, and art historical perspective.
HOURS: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Thursday until 9:00 p.m., Sunday 1:00-5:00 p.m. Closed Monday.
ADMISSION: $10 adults, $8 seniors 65 and over, $4 students. Free for museum members; SMU faculty, staff and students; and children under 12
LOCATION: Meadows Museum, 5900 Bishop Blvd., Dallas, TX 75205
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