Media Contact:
Victoria Winkelman

April 25, 2007

London's National Gallery of Art loans

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.

Diego Velázquez's The Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Conception (c. 1618)
by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)

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.

Tuesday, May 1
5:30 p.m.


17th-century Seville: Cradle and Forge of a Dogma
Dr. Luis Martín, Professor Emeritus of History at SMU, will discuss the religious and spiritual climate of Seville in the opening decades of the 17th century, when Diego Velázquez was growing up there, and his artistic genius was awakened by the colors, sounds, shapes, and scents of the most sensuous city in Spain. In the Dr. Bob Smith Auditorium.
The event is free and open to the public.
Tuesday, May 8
5:30 p.m.


The Immaculate Conception in Spanish Art
Dr. Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt, scholar of Spanish and Spanish-American art of the 17th and 18th centuries, will show how the definitive iconography representing the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception came about and explain why it was so closely associated with Spain and her dominions in the Americas. She will then explain how the image was adapted to show the special devotion to the doctrine of particular cities, religious orders, confraternities, and other groups from the early 17th through the 19th centuries. In the Dr. Bob Smith Auditorium.
The event is free and open to the public.
Tuesday, May 15

5:30 p.m.


Marian Piety: The Role of the Immaculate Conception in the Devotional Life of Religious Orders and Confraternities
Dr. Jessica A. Boon, Assistant Professor of Church History at SMU, will discuss Mariology, perhaps the best arena to view the influence of lay piety on official Catholic theology. In the Middle Ages, developments in lay adoration of Mary as mother to the human Christ, as compassionate spectator to Christ’s death, and as intercessor with Christ in heaven meant that the story of Christianity revolved almost as much around the birth, life, and assumption of Mary as it did around the life and Passion of Christ. This lecture will address the influence on Marian theology of scholastic speculation, Franciscan traditions, and local festivals in the High and Late Middle Ages, with special attention to the influence of early modern Spanish mystical authors and confraternal devotions on 17th-century views of the Immaculate Conception. In the Dr. Bob Smith Auditorium.
The event is free and open to the public.

6:30 p.m. Wine and cheese reception in the galleries
7:30 p.m. Voice recital with piano by the Meadows School Division of Music. The recital will include Morton Lauridson’s O Magnum Mysterium, performed by mezzo soprano and Meadows voice professor Virginia Dupuy, and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater “Vidit suum dulcem natum,” performed by soprano voice student Kristin Hanna.

About the Meadows Museum

The Meadows Museum, a division of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, with works dating from the 10th to the 20th century. It includes masterpieces by some of the world’s greatest painters: El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Miró and Picasso.

The museum is located at 5900 Bishop Blvd. on the campus of SMU, three blocks west of the DART light rail Mockingbird Station.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 per person, free on Thursday evenings after 5 p.m., and free for children under 12, museum members, and SMU faculty, staff and students. Free parking is available in the museum garage.

For information, call 214.768.2516 or visit the museum’s web site at

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