Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


 


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.
 



Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.

 

 


Spain and Portugal
 


1500-1800
 

 

Voyages of discovery and merchant shipping made Portugal and Spain the leading sea powers of Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Under  Philip II, Spain also became the major force behind the Counter-Reformation. A rapid economic and political decline took place in Portugal after 1580 and in Spain after 1600, accelerated by the often weak and conservative governments. This decline lasted until around 1750, when reforms associated with enlightened absolutism elsewhere were carried out in both countries. In the wake of the French Revolution, both countries fell under Napoleon's control.

 

 

Philip IV


 Philip IV, portraits by Velazquez

king of Spain and Portugal

born April 8, 1605, Valladolid, Spain
died Sept. 17, 1665, Madrid

Main
king of Spain (1621–65) and of Portugal (1621–40), during the decline of Spain as a great world power.

He succeeded his father, Philip III of Spain, in 1621, and, for the first 22 years of his reign, Philip’s valido, or chief minister, was the Conde-Duque de Olivares, who took the spread of the Thirty Years’ War as an opportunity not only for resuming hostilities against the Dutch at the end of the Twelve Years’ Truce of 1609 (1621) but also for an ambitious attempt to restore Spanish hegemony in Europe, in close alliance with the imperial branch of the Habsburg dynasty. The Spanish armies won some conspicuous victories—for instance, the capture of Breda from the Dutch (1626) and the defeat of the Swedes and Weimarians at Nördlingen (1634)—but France declared open war in 1635, and Spain’s early successes were offset, from 1640, by the separatist rebellions of Catalonia and of Portugal (Portugal becoming independent in 1640 under John IV of the House of Bragança).

Philip dismissed Olivares in 1643 and replaced him with Don Luis Méndez de Haro, who remained in office until his death in 1661. Thereafter the King had no valido, but frequently relied on the advice of a nun and mystic, María de Ágreda, who corresponded with him on both spiritual matters and affairs of state. By the end of his reign Spain, weakened by military reverses and economic and social distress, had become a second-class power.

Philip’s first wife was Elizabeth (Spanish, Isabel), daughter of Henry IV of France; after her death in 1644, he married Maria Anna (Mariana), daughter of the Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand III. A poet and patron of the arts, Philip was the friend and patron of the painter Velázquez, many of whose works portray Philip and members of his court.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 


see also: 
Velazquez
 

 




Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV

 

   
 

Very likely none of these events would have been of any importance for modern students of his work if they had not, as has often been assumed, been reflected in the most famous of Velazquez' paintings, his undisputed masterpiece, described by the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634-1705) as the "theology of painting". This was his monumental work Las Meninas or The Royal Family, painted in 1656/57.

Las Meninas is one of the great problem pictures in the history of art. An almost infinite number of interpretations have now been proposed for the scene it shows, and countless painters, from the seventeenth century to Francisco de Goya, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet, Max Liebermann and Franz von Stuck at a later date, with Salvador Dalf and Richard Hamilton in modern times, have felt inspired by this picture to offer their own versions and studies of it. Most notably, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) vividly updated the picture in a fifty-eight part series. At first sight, however, Las Meninas seems to present no problems at all, and indeed appears perfectly straightforward in its sober geometry and good-humoured clarity.
 

 


Velazquez
Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV
1656-57
Oil on canvas, 318 x 276 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

X-rays of this painting have shown that while Velazquez made many alterations to the composition while he was working on it,
there is nothing to indicate that he wished to depict himself as if looking at the Infanta
or anyone else in the group behind which he is standing.

 

   
 

It is set in a room in the Alcazar, equipped by Velazquez as a studio, and shows the heiress to the throne, the Infanta Margarita, with her court. Palomino names all those present. The queen's maid of honour, Dona Maria Agustina Sarmiento, one of the meninas, is kneeling at the Infanta's feet, handing her a jug of water. The other maid of honour, Dona Isabel de Velasco stands behind the princess, and beside her we see the grotesquely misshapen female dwarf Mari-Barbola and the male dwarf Nicolasico Pertusato; the latter, as Palomino points out, is placing his foot on the mastiff lying in front of the group to demonstrate the lethargic animal's good temper. Further back, almost swallowed up in the shadows, are a man described only as guardadamas - a guard or escort to the ladies -and the lady in waiting Dona Marcela de Ulloa.
Velazquez is standing with brush and palette in front of a tall canvas; we can see only the back of it. There are some large pictures hanging on the back wall of the room. Two of them were painted by Velazquez' son-in-law, Mazo, from models by Rubens, and show scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, one of them another version of the punishment of Arachne. The princess's parents, the king and queen, appear in a dark frame below these pictures, probably the glass of a mirror. To the right of the mirror, on a flight of steps leading up to a doorway and a brightly lit adjoining room, stands Jose Nieto, the queen's palace marshal.
 

 


Velazquez
Las Meninas
(detail)
1656-57
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

In the rear mirror, our attention drawn to it by the silhouetted courtier, we see a reflection of the king and queen. Whether it actually reflects them, or the painting Velazquez is working on, nobody knows for certain. Secure in their position, the royal pair can easily afford to become a mere reflection behind their child. Even as pale shadows, they can dominate, surely the subtlest of compliments.
 


Velazquez
Las Meninas
(detail)
1656-57
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
 


Maria Sarmientio is giving her mistress, the Infanta Margarita, water in a bucaro, a red pottery jug, handing it to her on a tray. The children of Philip IV and his first wife Isabel de Bourbon were dead by the date of this painting, except for the eighteen-year-old Infanta Maria Teresa, who is not shown in this group. Philip married Mariana as his second wife in 1649. and at the time this picture was painted the Infanta Margarita, born on 12 July 1651, was her only child. The little princess's face is shown in an aura of almost other-worldly beauty such as Velazquez hardly achieved in any other work.

 

 


Velazquez
Las Meninas
(detail)
1656-57
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
 

There is a sense of life as actively lived, life held still for a passing moment - not a moment of special significance, however; merely one of thousands passing every hour, and this one lives on. The figures of the Infanta's entourage appear and recede in a vast cave of shadows. All have been identified as historical personages except for the man standing quietly on the right.

 



Jan van Eyck
The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini

(detail)
1434

The witnesses to the wedding of the Florentine merchant Arnolfini appear in the convex mirror on the back wall of the bedroom, including, as the inscription above the mirror confirms, the painter of the picture, Jan van Eyck.
 

There are several basic questions that have been asked again and again about this picture. What is Velazquez painting on the front of the canvas that is hidden from us? Where did he stand in order to paint the scene and himself in it? What is the source of the image in the mirror - that is, just where in the room must the royal couple have been standing for their reflection to appear? And finally, is there any significance in the fact that the red cross of the Order of Santiago is prominently applied to the artist's clothing?
It was long thought that Velazquez - whom the Impressionists claimed as a forerunner - was creating a picture without any metaphysical or speculative reference, and was merely recording a fleeting moment in permanent form, as if in a snapshot. According to this theory the subject was no more than an ordinary scene of palace life.

Their Majesties were sitting for the painter one day when the Infanta was called in to entertain them; she and her retinue are looking at the royal couple, directly visible only to them and to the painter, but seen half-length in the mirror by viewers of the picture, while the palace marshal is turning enquiringly back to the king and queen as he leaves the room.
A different hypothesis is put forward by art historians, who believe that intellect and keen perspicacity, as well as the artist's eye and hand, were involved in the painting of Las Meninas. They have studied the work for possible models, without coming to any particularly sensational conclusions. It has been possible only to establish that Velazquez knew the portrait of The Marriage of Giovanni Amolfini painted by Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441) in 1434, which was in Madrid at the time, and may well have picked up from it the idea of a mirror showing people who are not depicted in the room.

The question is, why would Velazquez have chosen to give an intellectualized rendering of his subject? One answer holds that the picture has a poetic rather than a documentary meaning. Velazquez has painted a portrait about the painting of a portrait, or as in Las Hilanderas, he has painted a picture about the making of pictures, and that is why he has placed himself in such a prominent position - to glorify his activity, his art, and himself as an independent creative artist. That is also, according to this theory, why Luca Giordano saw the composition as the "theology of painting", the highest form of intellectual or even philosophical concern with art.

The largest number of interpretations have been put forward for the mirror on the back wall, sometimes also thought to be a painted canvas. The theory above holds that the mirror, as a conventional attribute of Prudentia or Wisdom, indicates the wisdom of the royal couple and makes the whole picture the expression of elevated doctrines of virtue: it is a painted "mirror of princes". Velazquez did not show himself painting King Philip and his wife - double portraits were not usual in Spanish court painting of the time - but the royal reflection in the mirror, bathed in light, stands for the supreme and almost divine virtues of the monarchy. Scholars have also wondered whether the laws of optics actually allow the royal couple in front of Velazquez to be reflected - and whether the dimensions of the canvas on the easel are suitable for a double portrait. But what else can the painter be depicting on his canvas? The Infanta? The scene we ourselves see as we look at his picture? Or nothing at all? Countless investigations and mathematical studies of the perspective in Las Meninas by architects and engineers, art historians and theatrical experts, show that the vanishing-point of the composition is the open doorway in the background, which would also suggest that the source of the reflection in the mirror, in line with the laws of optics, is not directly opposite it but further left. The reflection of the royal couple in the mirror thus seems to be vanishing out of reach.

 

 

 


Velazquez
Las Meninas
(detail)
1656-57
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 


Velazquez
Las Meninas
(detail)
1656-57
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 


Velazquez
Las Meninas
(detail)
1656-57
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 



Much learned industry has also been applied to the question of location: in which room in the palace is this scene taking place? Although the Alcazar burned down in 1734, it has been possible to locate the site of the room in its historical ground plan. The reconstruction of the room itself, however, is a matter of controversy. In view of the nature of the picture, one recurrent problem is, of course, how a court painter's social position could allow him to depict himself so prominently in this picture, actually within the circle of the royal family, while the king and queen themselves are shown only indirectly.
Palomino says that the king thought particularly highly of Las Meninas when it was completed, so clearly Philip did not feel offended in any way by the picture, and indeed he probably gave the concept his blessing in advance. It is unthinkable that Velazquez would not have observed the requisite standards of etiquette in his painting. But there are widely divergent opinions of the way in which he expressed those standards, and speculations on the extent to which he may have been secretly undermining them. The glance that the painter turns on us from this picture certainly has nothing of the subservient courtier about it. He radiates pride and self-confidence - and is looking unwaveringly at the person opposite him, whoever that may be.


The story goes that when Velazquez died, the king had Las Meninas brought to his deathbed and with his own hands added the cross of the Order of Santiago to the court painter's clothing in red paint. This is only a legend, of course, although the sign of the order was indeed added later, since the artist was not knighted until 1659. However the cross came to be added, there is an artistic density in this painting that can probably never be fully explored and is therefore certain to produce more new interpretations in the future.

We know that Velazquez was qualified to wear the red cross of Santiago on his cloak over clothing adorned with silver lace, and to carry a valuable dagger at his side and wear a heavy gold chain with a scallop shell set with diamonds around his neck, by the time he mingled with the dazzling company that assembled on the Isle of Pheasants in the river Bidassoa on the Spanish-French border on 7 June 1660, to celebrate the wedding of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to the Spanish princess Maria Teresa. Towards the end of his life Velazquez had brought both his career and his art to the zenith of achievement. Despite the riddles hidden in the painting of Las Meninas we must not overlook its artistic mastery, particularly as expressed in the figure of the Infanta Margarita surrounded by people of lesser birth. For it was on the princess that the dynastic hopes of the Spanish Habsburgs rested after the death of Prince Baltasar Carlos.
A portrait of the Infanta is one of the last works Velazquez painted (1659; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). It was sent to Vienna, to the German Emperor Leopold I, to whom the princess was betrothed, and with it went the portrait of Prince Felipe Prospero, also painted by the master in 1659. The young prince was a sickly child from birth, and he died at the age of four. He appears in this picture in a pink dress trimmed with silver, with a translucent pinafore over it, and bearing some striking accessories: various amulets were supposed to protect him against the evil eye, and an amber apple was thought to ward off infections. The bloodless face of the blue-eyed prince looks even paler due to the contrast with the silver highlights in his straw-coloured fair hair. Pale daylight falls in through the open door in the background. Otherwise, the room is full of shadows that seem to threaten the little figure. Palomino considered this portrait one of the finest ever painted by Velazquez, and singled out the little dog on the chair for special praise.

This portrait of the prince is the first in which Velazquez expresses a strong sense of sadness, as if he guessed that he himself would not paint many more pictures: no more divine figures and kings, no hidalgos, dwarfs and jesters, no more popes and saints, and no more simple, ordinary folk -with all of whom he had filled his canvases, turning the same intensity and sensitivity on each of his subjects.

Velazquez died on 6 August 1660. One of the greatest figures in the history of art was laid out in the Alcazar, wrapped in the cloak of the Order of Santiago. He was buried by night in the church of San Juan Bautista, and many noble and royal dignitaries attended the solemn funeral service. His wife survived him by only a week, and was buried beside him. There is nothing left today of either the church or the grave of Velazquez. But we still have his pictures.

 

 

 

Siege of Breda, 1624


The Siege of Breda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Siege of Breda is the name for two major sieges of the Eighty Years' War and Thirty Years' War. The Dutch fortress city of Breda fell to a Spanish army under Ambrosio Spinola in 1625; it was retaken by Frederick Henry of Orange in 1637.
 

The battle

Under Spinola's orders the Spanish laid siege to Breda in August 1624, contrary to the wishes of their king. The city was heavily fortified and defended by a garrison of 7,000. Spinola rapidly invested its defences and hurled back a Dutch army under Maurice of Nassau attempting to cut his supplies. The defenders held. In February 1625 a force of 7,000 Englishmen under Ernst von Mansfeld failed to relieve the city.

Justin of Nassau surrendered Breda in June 1625 after a costly eleven-month siege.

The Siege of Breda was Spinola's greatest victory and one of Spain's last in the Eighty Years' War. It was part of a plan to isolate the Republic from its Hinterland.

In 1629, however, after Piet Heyn's capture of the Treasure fleet, stadtholder Frederick Henry was able to capture the fortress city of 's-Hertogenbosch, breaking the land blockade.

Spain's efforts in the Netherlands continued thereafter though political infighting hindered Spinola's freedom of movement. Yet the siege of 1625 captured the attention of the princes of Europe and, for a while longer, Spanish armies continued to recapture the formidable reputation they had held under Charles V.

This first siege is best known as the subject of Diego Velázquez's 1635 canvas, The Surrender of Breda.
 

 

 

 


Ambrogio Spinola

Ambrogio di Filippo Spinola, marquis de los Balbases

Spanish military officer

born 1569, Genoa [Italy]
died Sept. 25, 1630, Castelnuovo Scrivia

Main
an outstanding military commander in the service of Spain and one of the ablest soldiers of his time. Though he won fame in the wars against the Dutch Republic in the early 17th century, he was ultimately unable to break Dutch military power.

Spinola was born into an old and powerful family of Genoa, an Italian city-state that during his time was a close ally of Spain. To advance the fortunes of his family, Spinola contracted for service in the Spanish Netherlands and marched there in 1602 with a force of 9,000 men he had raised at his own expense. With his disciplined troops, Spinola showed himself a match for his major opponent, the skillful Dutch commander Maurice of Nassau, in his successful one-year siege of Ostend, which fell on Sept. 22, 1604. After that victory, Spinola was appointed commander in chief of the Spanish armies in the Netherlands and the next in line to head its government after Alfred, archduke of Austria, joint sovereign of the region with his wife, Isabella.

Spinola continued to do battle with Maurice of Nassau and to exhibit his mastery of siege warfare. He captured many fortified places. In 1606 he went to Spain, where he was forced to pledge his entire fortune as security for the expenses of the Dutch war before bankers would advance funds to the Spanish government. Spinola was never repaid and ultimately suffered financial ruin. The next year he signed a suspension of arms with Maurice and two years later played a major role in the negotiation of a truce that lasted 12 years. During this entire period, Spinola kept his Netherlands forces in readiness and directed repair and maintenance efforts.

Shortly after the opening of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48), Spinola seized nearly all of the Palatinate, a fertile and strategic German region along the Rhine River (1620). He thereby removed a Protestant-held barrier on the route by which money and men reached the Spanish armies in the Netherlands; he was rewarded with the rank of captain general. He returned to the Netherlands to assume command of the Spanish armies in 1621, after Spain had decided to break the truce with the Dutch. There Spinola gained his most famous victory, the capture of the strategic Dutch fortress of Breda, after a long siege (Aug. 28, 1624–June 5, 1625). This victory drew attention throughout Europe and served as the subject for the great painting by Velázquez, “The Surrender of Breda.” After Breda, the lack of funds and the enmity of the conde-duque de Olivares, the administrator for the Spanish boy-king Philip IV, hindered Spinola’s military efforts. Also, the new Dutch commander, Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, proved himself a formidable opponent.

In 1628 Spinola left for Spain, where he reluctantly accepted an appointment as general and plenipotentiary in the war with the French over the disputed succession to the duchy of Mantua, Italy (1628–31). Spinola arrived in Italy in 1629 and died there in the midst of the siege of Casale. The title of marqués de Los Balbases, which had been bestowed on Spinola, was all the compensation his family received for the great fortune Spinola had spent in the service of Philip III and Philip IV of Spain.

 

 



The Surrender of Breda

 

   
 

In the Salon de Reinos, the throne-room of Buen Retiro where courtly ceremony was displayed to the full, symbolically representing the monarchy to the outside world, a series of ten pictures by Zurbaran on the theme of Hercules hung beside the equestrian portraits of members of the Spanish ruling house of Habsburg. There were also twelve battle scenes showing the latest victories won under Philip IV. All the military paintings follow the same standard pattern: they banish war itself to the background and show the victorious commanders full-length in the foreground, where the figures of rulers are usually placed in other works.
The battle pieces may well have been painted by Velazquez' artistic colleagues Eugenio Caxes (1573/74-1634) and Vicente Carducho, or by Zurbaran. They are not particularly original, unlike the paintings by Fray Juan Bautusta Maino and (as one might expect) by Velazquez himself. Maino's painting was taken from the subject of a play by Lope de Vega celebrating the recapture of Bahia in Brazil by the Portuguese and Castilians after its occupation by the Dutch. However, the main theme of the picture is not so much the battle as the noble magnanimity of the victors and their care for the wounded.
In The Surrender of Breda, painted in 1634 to 1635, Velazquez too makes a fundamental statement about humane conduct amidst the horrors of war. Many contemporary witnesses felt sure that the long struggle for the Netherlands would determine the future position of Spain as a world power. The most important fortress in the southern Netherlands was Breda in Brabant, and the strategic significance of the place was correctly assessed by Philip IV 's best commander in the Thirty Years' War, Ambrosio Spinola, a rich Genoese nobleman who had been awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece. The commander of the fortress on the opposite side, Justinus of Nassau, was another military man famous throughout Europe. After a four-month siege and when all the provisions in the fortress had run out, he was forced to petition for an honourable surrender. Spinola allowed him to leave under conditions that were extremely generous for the period.
 

 


Velazquez
The Surrender of Breda (Las Lanzas)
1634-35
Oil on canvas, 307 x 367 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid


 


Velazquez
The Surrender of Breda
(detail)
1634-35
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Velazquez met Spinola himself during his first visit to Italy.
In the picture he emphasizes the commander's nobility and humanity.
Spinola is chivalrously receiving his defeated opponent Justinus of Nassau,
laying a hand on his shoulder in recognition of his enemy's feats,
and apparently ignoring the humiliating act of the surrender of the key.


 

   
 

The official surrender took place on 5 June 1625. The conquered army was permitted to leave the city with dignity, carrying its colours and its weapons. Spinola was waiting on horseback at the city gate with a few noblemen, and magnanimously saluted the Dutch general as he came first out of the fortress, followed by his wife riding in a carriage.
News of the victory was greeted with relief and delight in Madrid, and by Pope Urban VIII in Rome. The Pope congratulated Spinola on washing his hands in the blood of the heretics. A play by Calderon de la Barca on the subject of the siege of Breda was performed in Madrid in November 1625. The dramatist makes Spinola say of his adversary, in a proud yet modest phrase that has become proverbial, "The valour of the conquered makes the conqueror famous". The young Velazquez probably saw the production of this play at court. Now, nine years later and after making many drawings as preparatory studies, he was to paint a historical picture on the subject. During his work he kept casting a critical eye on the events shown on his canvas, correcting and painting over them, yet the final result conveys a sense of great ease. Velazquez had painted one of the most famous and accomplished war pictures in the history of art - and it is surely the most deeply moving in human terms.
An impressive and dramatic scene of war unfolds on the huge canvas. The viewer has an aerial view of the now silent battlefield in the distance; smoke rises from fires beneath clouds and blue-grey mists. We look across trenches, water-works and blockhouses; only Breda itself is absent from the picture. The brightly lit background, bathed in shades of pale blue and pink, suggests the landscape backgrounds of Tintoretto. The Dutch are coming up from the depths of the picture, passing from right to left through the double line of upright Spanish spears. Velazquez makes this dense forest of spears pointing to the sky so dominant a feature of the picture as a whole that it has given the painting its sub-title of Las Lanzas.
By now the protagonists have assembled on the rising ground in front, which is the main scene of the action and on the viewer's eye-level. There are nine figures on each side: the Dutch to the left, the Spanish to the right. The group on the left opens up and the Dutch commander steps forward, his glance sad and weary, sketching a bow as he hands over the key of the city. With delicacy of feeling, Spinola bends down to him and lays his mailed hand on his enemy's shoulder with a courteous smile - a sympathetic and a noble gesture. Behind him, a groom forces a magnificent nervously prancing horse to one side.

The group of defeated men is constructed more loosely and with more variety of lighting and colour than the well-disciplined company of victors: the Dutch are weather-beaten soldiers like the musketeer on the left of the picture; the Spanish are more elegant and sophisticated. The wall of spears, the weapons of the undefeated tercios, the famous Spanish infantry, emphasizes their still menacing power, at the same time lending the military commander's humanity and merciful conduct its full weight and providing a foil for it.

The bearing and appearance of the soldiers display Velazquez' inexhaustibly rich orchestration of their feelings and their states of mind. In some of the faces he has taken his inspiration from types of his own invention, for instance the figures in the Forge of Vulcan. The officer with chestnut-brown hair to the right behind Spinola represents Don Pedro de Barberana, a knight of the Order of Calatrava, whom the court painter had already portrayed in 1631/32. The vibrant application of paint, the painter's extraordinary understanding of the way in which light and the atmosphere can change colours, the symphony of brilliant and muted tones that fills the picture, making it sparkle and glow with joyful harmonies, the manner in which the composition concentrates dramatically on the surrender of the key while the formal rhythms of victory and defeat unfold, all mark a crucial watershed in the art of Velazquez.

The Surrender of Breda, which contains no allegorical or mythological references, is indisputably the first purely historical picture in modern European painting, and among the outstanding works of world art. In another manner, and one that is always striking and sometimes curiously moving to modern observers, Velazquez shows human nature in all its diversity when he presents the gallery of dwarfs and jesters who lived at court and whose task it was to preserve the king from boredom in the midst of routine etiquette.

 


Velazquez
The Surrender of Breda
(detail)
1634-35
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
 

 


Velazquez
The Surrender of Breda
(detail)
1634-35
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 


Velazquez
The Surrender of Breda  - Self-Portrait
(detail)
1634-35
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
 

 

 

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