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Title: Velazquez
Author: Bensusan, S. L. (Samuel Levy), 1872-1958
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Velazquez" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



  MASTERPIECES
  IN COLOUR
  EDITED BY --
  T. LEMAN HARE



  VELAZQUEZ



=====================================================================

PLATE I.--THE INFANTE DON FERNANDO OF AUSTRIA (Frontispiece)

This picture was painted for the Torre de la Parada, and shows King
Philip's younger brother in hunting costume.  Velazquez seems to have
repainted a part of the canvas which is to be seen in the Prado, Madrid.

[Illustration: Plate I.]

=====================================================================



VELAZQUEZ


BY S. L. BENSUSAN

ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT

REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR



[Illustration: Title page art]



LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK

NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.

1907



CONTENTS

       INTRODUCTION
   I.  THE METHOD AND INFLUENCE OF VELAZQUEZ
  II.  THE PAINTER'S EARLY DAYS
 III.  VELAZQUEZ IN MADRID
  IV.  A RETROSPECT



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Plate

    I. The Infante Don Fernando of Austria . . . . . . . Frontispiece
         In the Prado, Madrid

   II. Las Meniñas
         In the Prado, Madrid

  III. The Infante Philip Prosper
         In the Imperial Gallery, Vienna

   IV. The Infante Don Balthasar Carlos
         In the Prado, Madrid

    V. Antonio the Englishman
         In the Prado, Madrid

   VI. Admiral Adriano Pulido Pareja
         In the National Gallery, London

  VII. Donna Mariana of Austria
         In the Prado, Madrid

 VIII. The Princess Maria Theresa of Austria
         In the Prado, Madrid



INTRODUCTION


[Illustration: Velazquez]

It is a curious truth that Spain in these days of her decline exercises
almost as much control over the mind of the world as she exercised over
its territories in the days of her great empire.  Cervantes in
literature and Velazquez in art seem destined to secure for their
country a measure of immortality that throws into the background the
memory of such people as Carlos Quinto, Philip II., and those other
lesser lights who made the name of Spain respected or detested
throughout Europe and South America.  If science and art are destined,
as some altruists hope, to unite the world in a bond that defies the
arbitrary boundaries made by rulers, then the name of Diego de Silva
Velazquez will stand high in the list of those whom the world delights
to honour, for people who are opposed diametrically on all questions of
politics and faith find ground upon which they may meet in security and
amity when they stand before the pictures of the great Spanish master.
And Cervantes, who used words instead of colours to express the life he
saw around him, would redeem Spain from insignificance if she had never
owned a colony, and had never sought to step beyond her own borders to
develop the arts of peace or follow the paths of war.

Perhaps it would be hard to find more diverse opinions than those that
are heard in the studio.  Artists see life through the medium of many
temperaments, they are notoriously intemperate in their enthusiasms.
There are schools of painting to suit every conviction, and the work
that one man would give his all to possess would not find hanging space
upon the wall controlled by another.  But before Velazquez even artists
forget their controversies; he stands, like Bach and Beethoven in the
world of music, respected even by those who do not understand.  No
controversy rages round him; he has marched unchallenged to the highest
place in men's regard.

=====================================================================

PLATE II.--LAS MENIÑAS

This picture was painted about the year 1656, and, now in the Prado, is
considered one of the greatest works of the master.  It presents the
Infanta Margarita attended by her maids of honour, while Velazquez
himself is shown painting the portraits of Philip IV. and his second
wife Mariana of Austria, who are seen reflected in the mirror.

[Illustration: Plate II.]

=====================================================================

It is interesting to note that a reputation unrivalled in the world of
pictures is founded upon a comparatively small number of works.  One of
his latest critics reduces the pictures of Velazquez now in existence
to eighty-nine, while acknowledging that some have disappeared from the
royal palaces of Spain and cannot be traced.  This critic, Señor Don
Aureliano de Beruete--a connoisseur, a collector, and a worker in the
best interests of art--is perhaps a little too severe.  He will not
admit to his catalogue a portrait like that of Admiral Adriano Pulido
Pareja, which, despite some inferior workmanship, can show considerable
claims to be regarded as genuine; but even if all the disputed ones
were admitted, and such a list as the late R. A. M. Stevenson published
were accepted without that far-seeing critic's own reserve, we should
not have as many pictures to represent the forty years of the artist's
life as Sir Joshua Reynolds was known to paint in a single year.
Velazquez has left very few drawings, and these are of small
importance; there are but two acknowledged engravings; and to limit
still further our sources of knowledge, the artist's correspondence
seems to have been lost; while the Memoirs which Velazquez was said to
have drawn up when Philip IV. sent the pictures to the Escorial are now
admitted by the best authorities to be the work of another man.



I

THE METHOD AND INFLUENCE OF VELAZQUEZ

In dealing with the life and work of the Spanish master, even in the
modest fashion of this little monograph, one must bear in mind the fact
that Velazquez, in the eyes of his contemporaries, was not only an
artist--he was a court painter; and pictures other than portraits were
of comparatively little importance to Philip IV. and his circle.  Art
borrowed most of her importance in sixteenth and seventeenth century
Spain from the fact that she was the handmaid of Holy Mother Church.
Velazquez was a court official who chanced to be a clever
portrait-painter, and his promotion tended ever to take him further
away from his art.  With the increase of state duties the claims upon
his time grew more and more difficult to meet, and, when he rose in the
closing years of his life to be Grand Marshal of the Palace, entrusted
with the ordering of state functions and missions to distinguished
foreigners, his art became entirely a secondary consideration.  The
studio was no more than a place of refuge for the artist in the hours
when he might forget that he was an official.  If Velazquez had not
been compelled to sacrifice the best part of forty years' activity to
the ridiculous formalities of court life, the world might have been
richer to-day by scores of pictures worthy to rank by the side of "Las
Meniñas" and the portrait of Pope Innocent X.  The painter might have
found outside court circles far more inspiring sitters than those whom
he was compelled to paint, for it takes all that even a Velazquez can
give to a portrait to make a Philip IV., a Mariana of Austria, or even
an Isabella of Bourbon, reveal their dominant characteristics without
caricature; indeed one feels that the interest belongs to the picture
and not to the sitter.  The success is one of tone, of harmony and of
line, of sure handling directed by an inward vision.

Because of gifts lying beyond praise, the painter has preserved
seventeenth-century Spain for us as far as court circles represent it;
but among the many charges laid to the account of Philip IV. must be
added that of limiting the range and crippling the capacity of an
artist who cannot be placed second to any man.

When we come to analyse his work we find that its qualities are not of
a sensational kind.  Velazquez makes no appeal through the medium of
brilliant pigment; his great contemporary Rubens used colour in far
more striking fashion.  Velazquez loved grey and silvery tints, and in
the years of his maturity understood relative values perfectly.  He
knew, too, exactly how far he could go, and never made experiments in
search of qualities that were not his.  Although he had a certain
quality of delicate imagination, he was a realist, and could not paint
without a model; he never acquired a mannerism, or applied to one
sitter the treatment that some artists seem to keep for types.  Every
figure he set upon canvas has its own individuality, and, while
Velazquez, like other artists, had manners and methods that belong to
fixed periods of his life, it is not easy to set down in cold print an
analysis of the causes that make up his effects.  He had no tricks;
everything that he did was clear, simple, and withal inimitable.
Hundreds of men have copied his pictures; none has been able to copy
his method.  With his death his influence upon art ceased.  His genius
lay buried in the grave with him, and did not suffer complete
resurrection until the nineteenth century was turning towards its
successor, though Raphael Mengs had done all he could to make his
merits known a hundred years before.  Even to-day, we may be said to be
in the first stage of our enjoyment of the master's work.  There are at
least fifty good books upon the subject of Velazquez' life and art,
written in three or four languages, and all published in the last half
century; there must be many more to come, for every generation sees
genius in the light of its own time.

So much for literature.  In art the painter has influenced very many
moderns.  Manet, Courbet, Corot, Millet, Whistler, are among the men
whose work shines in the light of the Prado, and the list might be
prolonged indefinitely, for all earnest art workers go to Velazquez,
confident that whatever their aims and ideals, he will confirm and
strengthen what is best in them.  They know, too, that they may return
again and again, and that the rich stores of guidance and encouragement
in the pursuit of ideals are as inexhaustible as the barrel of meal
that did not waste, and the cruse of oil that did not fail, in the
house of the widow of Zarephath.



II

THE PAINTER'S EARLY DAYS

In the years when Velazquez first saw the light, the power of Spain,
despite the shock it had received from British seamen, was the
dominating factor in European politics.  Philip II. had come to the end
of a reign of more than forty years; Philip III. had just reached the
throne.  The painter was not born in the atmosphere of court life, but
in the very Catholic city of Seville, then as now a fatal place for
those who cannot withstand the manifold temptations to lead a lazy
life.  Happily for the boy his parents had not inherited the Seville
traditions; his father came from Oporto, which, being a seaport town,
has no lack of mental and physical activity.  The spirit of painting
settled at a very early age upon young Diego de Silva Velazquez--the
second name by which he is universally known belonged to his mother's
family--almost before he was in his teens he was working in the studio
of Francisco de Herrera, architect and painter.  The temperaments of
master and pupil could not fuse; there was sufficient trouble to lead
Don Juan Rodriguez to transfer his son's services to Francesco Pacheco,
painter, poet, professor, and withal a man of action and experience.
He knew much about contemporary art, encouraged a hopeful outlook upon
life, and enjoyed the respect of all men.  Moreover his studio was the
meeting-place for many of the distinguished folk of the city.  In the
very early years of their association Pacheco understood that his young
pupil was not like other lads, that he possessed an individuality that
could not be repressed or directed into the usual channels, and instead
of resenting this new element, he sought to direct it wisely and
kindly, thereby laying Velazquez under a debt of gratitude that the
painter never repudiated.  Indeed there were stronger ties in the
making, for in the spring of 1618, when the young artist was on the
threshold of his wonderful career, Pacheco gave him his daughter Juana
for wife, "encouraged," he says, "by his virtues, his fine qualities,
and the hopes which his happy nature and great talent raised in me."
The kind old painter is not remembered to-day by his pictures, or even
by his "Book of Portraits of Illustrious Personages," and other
quaintly titled works from his pen.  He lives because he helped to make
Velazquez a great painter, and recorded his impression of his
son-in-law's earliest works, the various "Bodegones," of which several
may be seen in London to-day.  Others are in Berlin and St. Petersburg.
From these pictures of the secular life Velazquez passed to religious
subjects--"Christ in the House of Martha" (National Gallery) and the
"Adoration of the Magi" (Prado) belong to these early years.

=====================================================================

PLATE III.--THE INFANTE PHILIP PROSPER

This picture hangs in the Imperial Gallery of Vienna.  It is the work
of the painter's last period, and shows us the little son of Philip IV.
by his second wife.  The lad died some two years after the picture was
painted; it has been restored, not too cleverly.

[Illustration: Plate III.]

=====================================================================

In 1622, Velazquez, already the father of two children, made his first
journey to Madrid, and was allowed to visit the royal palaces.  He did
not stay long in Castile, and his return to the capital was brought
about by the divinity that shapes men's ends.  Philip III. was dead;
his son Philip IV. had selected as friend and adviser the Count
Olivarez, son of the Governor of the Alcazar in Seville.  Olivarez had
many friends in the city that wears the "Modo" for its badge, in
recognition of unswerving loyalty to Alfonso the Learned.  Doubtless he
had heard about the work of the young painter and had seen some
examples of it, and he wished to strengthen himself in the capital by
bringing accomplished men from his own city to official posts in
Madrid.  So he sent for Velazquez, who journeyed a second time to the
north, now in the company of Pacheco, and on arrival there painted a
lost portrait of a Gentleman Usher, Fonseca by name.  This picture did
for Velazquez what the portrait of Admiral Keppel did for Reynolds, and
before the excitement died away, the young King Philip IV. had deigned
to promise a sitting to the clever Sevillian.  The success of the first
picture of Philip IV. (apparently the early one now in the Prado) was
so complete that the king ordered all existing portraits of himself to
be removed from the palace, and gave the painter an order of admission
to his service with a salary of about two pounds five shillings a
month!  Under the skilled hands of the artist we are permitted to see
the tall, gloomy lad grow up a dull, reserved man, and we read in his
face a part at least of the causes of Spain's ultimate downfall.



III

VELAZQUEZ IN MADRID

Of the painter's work at court in those early days we hear a little
from Pacheco, but the story of the times is more or less obscure.  A
clever portrait-painter was not a very interesting person in the eyes
of a Spanish grandee.  He was classed with the court buffoons and
dwarfs who existed merely to amuse.  Indeed, portraiture was not above
suspicion in the eyes of some fanatics, who held that art existed to
serve the Church, and should not seek secular employment.  There are
documents extant showing that Velazquez received eight pounds for three
portraits, of which one is lost and the other two (Philip and the Count
of Olivarez) are in Spain.  In 1625 the painter received a present of
three hundred ducats, which was followed by a pension of the same value
and a gift of free lodging, and, in 1627, by the appointment to the
post of Gentleman Usher.  There is no doubt but that the king was
attached to his young court painter in a certain undemonstrative
fashion.  Pacheco tells us that Philip used to visit the artist's
studio constantly, reaching it by way of the secret passages of which
the palace was full.

The year 1628 marks an event of the first importance in the life of
Velazquez, for Peter Paul Rubens came on a diplomatic mission to
Madrid, charged by his government to pave the way to the conclusion of
peace between England and Spain.  Rubens was then about fifty years
old.  He stayed nine months in the Spanish capital, and, despite his
diplomatic duties and the gout, found time to paint an extraordinary
number of pictures, including five of Philip.  He also copied the
king's Titians.  Velazquez was entrusted by Philip with the work of
entertaining Rubens, and showing him the art treasures of Spain, and
the friendship that grew up rapidly between the two artists was
creditable to both, because Rubens, then at the zenith of his fame,
recognised the amazing gifts of the young Spaniard, and Velazquez never
allowed the brilliancy of the ambassador-artist to tempt him from the
paths that he had chosen to follow.  There are some who think that
Rubens exerted a great influence upon his young friend's art, but we
cannot pretend to trace it.  Rubens may have widened his mind; he could
not influence his hand or eye.

Shortly after Rubens left Madrid, Velazquez completed his picture "Los
Borrachos," now in the Prado, and one of the acknowledged masterpieces
of his first style, though the tone is dark, and some of the figures do
not blend with their surroundings.  In the late summer of the same year
Velazquez left Spain for Italy, in the company of Don Ambrosio Spinola,
who was going to take command of the Spanish forces.  Soldier and
artist parted at Milan, and the latter went to Venice, where he stayed
with the Spanish ambassador and copied some of Tintoretto's pictures.
Thence he went by way of Ferrara to Rome, the honoured guest of a
relation of the Count of Olivarez, and he busied himself copying old
pictures and painting new ones.  Like many of the artists who go for
the first time to Italy, he was influenced in some degree by Guido, who
was then living.  He painted his own portrait, which is to be seen in
the Capitoline Museum, and went from Rome to Naples, returning to
Madrid in the early part of 1651.

=====================================================================

PLATE IV.--THE INFANTE DON BALTHASAR CARLOS

This is one of the Prado pictures of King Philip's eldest son by his
first wife, the unfortunate little prince who died while he was yet a
boy.  When this picture was painted Don Balthasar Carlos was six years
old.

[Illustration: Plate IV.]

=====================================================================

It might be mentioned in this place that the painter's eldest daughter
was growing up, and that he married her three years later to one of his
pupils, the artist J. B. del Mazo.  This clever artist, who was treated
by his master Velazquez as Velazquez had been treated by his master
Pacheco, is held by critics to be responsible for many pictures
generally ascribed to his father-in-law.  There is a picture in the
Wallace Collection known as the "Lady with the Fan," which is thought
by no less a critic than Señor Beruete to represent the young Francesca
Velazquez, who became the Señora del Mazo when she was only fifteen
years old.

Shortly after his return to Madrid, Velazquez came under the influence
of El Greco, who had died in 1614, and left some wonderful pictures
that may be seen to-day in Toledo.  This fact is important, not that
the influence resulted in imitation, but because it was distinctly
inspiring, and Greco is a painter who is coming slowly before the
public.  It cannot be doubted that his influence on artists through
Velazquez has been very deep and abiding, particularly in portraiture.

In the years following the return from Italy, Velazquez painted some of
the pictures of the little prince Don Balthasar Carlos, the king's son,
who was born in 1629, and died in 1646, the year of his betrothal to
Mariana of Austria.  There are many pictures of this interesting lad
who, had he lived, might have done so much to save his country.  The
earliest was painted as soon as Velazquez returned from Italy, and is
at present in Boston.  The next in date would seem to be the one in the
Wallace Collection, and following this comes the well-known picture of
Don Balthasar in hunting dress, now in the Prado, the one with the
small greyhound seen on the right, just coming into the canvas.  Then
we have the famous picture of the young prince on his spirited
Andalusian pony, which is perhaps the most popular of all; and
succeeding that in the order of the painting comes the portrait that,
in the writer's opinion, is the best of the series.  It hangs in the
Imperial Museum in Vienna, and was painted when the prince was about
eleven years old.  Doubtless there are other portraits of the ill-fated
boy, whose features seem to suggest that he had inherited from his
mother some of the qualities that his father lacked, and that had he
been spared to succeed his father in 1665, he would have handled
affairs with vigour and intelligence.

In 1638 Philip's daughter Maria Teresa was born, and the history of the
artist's life in Madrid becomes uneventful or lost.  Probably on
account of the increasing unrest abroad and the decline of the Spanish
fortunes, Velazquez' earliest patron, the Count of Olivarez, was
disgraced in 1643, the year in which Condé helped to break the power of
Spain at Rocroi.

Although the condition of the Spanish Empire was very unfavourable, and
Philip IV. must have known long hours of anxiety and unrest, there is
no reason to believe that he withdrew his company or his favour from
the best beloved of his court painters.  Spinola had taken Breda from
Justin of Nassau, and the surrender was promptly immortalised by
Velazquez in the picture "Las Lanzas," which draws so many pilgrims to
Madrid to-day.  It was painted for the palace of Buen Retiro, and
curiously enough--since it records one of the few successes of Spain in
the Low Countries--the subject passed out of men's memory, and for many
years nobody knew why the artist had painted it, or what it was all
about.  Some time between the painting of this picture and the fall of
Olivarez, Murillo came to Madrid and became a pupil of Velazquez, who
had just received a grant of five hundred ducats to be paid annually by
order of the king.  In 1644 Velazquez accompanied Philip on a journey
through Aragon, and two or three years later he was appointed Inspector
of Buildings, a post involving much tedious work, and helping to keep
the painter from his studio.  He seems to have bestowed a certain
amount of labour on portraits painted by other men, in order to bring
them into harmony with the collection that Philip was making.  It is
difficult to deal with this matter within limited space because the
details are distinctly controversial, but it is as well to remember
that some of the portraits attributed to Velazquez in the Prado Gallery
are of people who were dead before Velazquez was painting, so they
could not have sat for him; and in the days of Philip IV. it was
considered no disgrace for a man to repaint another artist's canvases.
Moreover, a painter to the court of Spain was not supposed to carry an
uneasy conscience about with him.  It was his duty to obey orders and
to accept from his superiors as much guidance and direction as they
were gracious enough to give him.

In 1649 the king granted Velazquez permission to return to Italy in
order to find pictures for a Royal Academy of Fine Art to be
established in Madrid.  By this time Philip was a widower, though he
was on the point of marrying his niece, Mariana of Austria.  She had
been affianced to the Infante Don Balthasar Carlos, but he had been
dead for three years, and the Spanish throne was without an heir.
Velazquez visited Genoa, Venice, Milan, and Padua, and brought back
pictures by Veronese and Tintoretto.  Rome and Naples were revisited,
and the famous portrait of Pope Innocent X., of which one copy is in
St. Petersburg, and the other in the Doria Palace in Rome, was painted.
The former is a bust and a study; the latter is a three-quarter length,
and is painted with a wonderful blend of red and white.  It was copied
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who declared that it was the finest work he had
seen in Rome.  What would he have thought of the later masterpieces by
the same hand?  The portrait was copied by other men too, and there is
no doubt that the copies were in some cases sold for originals.

By the time Velazquez returned to Madrid in 1651, at the urgent request
of his royal master, the court of Spain was _en fête_.  Philip's wife,
to whom he had been married two years, was only seventeen, and required
amusement.  Functions of every sort, excursions, entertainments on a
most sumptuous scale, were the order of the day, and because Velazquez
was now at the summit of his achievement, because he could paint
pictures that will endure as long as men care for art, it is difficult
indeed to forgive Philip IV. for making him Marshal of the Palace.  To
be sure the post was well paid, the salary being about £400 a year with
lodging in the Treasure House, but the duties were endless.  The king's
action was on a par with the custom that prevails in our own Foreign
Office, of sending a man who understands China thoroughly to serve the
country in Peru, and one who has mastered Russian politics to Portugal.

=====================================================================

PLATE V.--ANTONIO THE ENGLISHMAN

This was one of the dwarfs in the service of the king.  His is one of
the last portraits painted by Velazquez.  The figure is life size, and
hangs in the Prado at Madrid.

[Illustration: Plate V.]

=====================================================================

Happily Velazquez, for all that he was regarded in Madrid as a rather
lazy man, found time when he was Marshal of the Palace to paint the
best of all his portraits.  He was honoured by Queen Mariana of
Austria, the king's second wife, who sat for him on several occasions,
and the results may be seen in Paris, Vienna, New York, and Madrid.
Some of the portraits, painted without a suspicion of flattery, show
the absurd head-dress, the false hair, and the extraordinary crinoline
that were worn at the time, in all their ugliness, and force us to see
how great was the distance lying between the royal house and any sense
of beauty.  Velazquez was not perhaps very happy with this work,
because Nature had endowed Philip's wife with a face that was almost as
dull and unresponsive to emotion as that of her lord and master; but
after a time children were born, and the court painter had a more
sympathetic task.  He has left portraits that are quite charming of the
Infanta Margarita and the Infante Philip Prosper; he painted both of
the children while they were very young.  In point of fact, neither
lived to grow up; doubtless they would have been uninteresting enough
if they had been spared.  The Infanta Margarita is to be seen in
Vienna, in Paris, and in Madrid, and she of course is the centre of the
famous picture, "Las Meniñas."  Prince Prosper was painted by
Velazquez, when no more than two years old.  There were two other
children, Prince Ferdinand and Prince Carlos II., but the former was no
more than a year old when Velazquez died, and Carlos was unborn.  Of
the four children born to Philip IV. by his second wife, three died
young.

In the last years of his life, when the pressure of court duties and
the ill-will of highly placed fools must have been hard to bear,
Velazquez found time to paint some of his greatest masterpieces.  "The
Maids of Honour" ("Las Meniñas"), "The Spinners" ("Las Hilanderas"),
"Æsop," "Menippus," "The Coronation of the Virgin," and the "Venus with
the Mirror," are all the ripe fruit of the painter's last decade.  His
art had matured; adversity had thrown him back upon his work; it was
the solace of the hours that were not claimed by absurd official
duties.  Who shall say that the scant consideration he received from
parasites and courtiers was an unmixed evil?  The men who despised the
painter because Philip favoured him may have helped to mould his
character, may have enabled him to detach himself completely from his
own official character when he could lay aside the garb of office and
turn to his beloved canvases once again.  The portraits of Philip in
his last years, those of his second wife and her children, those of the
dwarfs too, belong to the years between 1651 and 1660.

It was a custom of the unhealthy and depressing Spanish court in which
the queen lived in an armour of corsets and crinoline, and might not be
touched by any of her faithful subjects upon pain of death--the court
in which the king was compelled to preside at the _autos da fé_--to
keep dwarfs as playthings.  Perhaps because they were ugly and deformed
they came quite naturally into the court environment.  The earliest
portrait of Don Balthasar Carlos shows him in company with a dwarf, and
there were about the court many other unfortunate creatures whom
Velazquez painted between 1650 and 1659.

There is more than a suspicion in the minds of many of his biographers
that the half-concealed contempt with which Velazquez was regarded in
court circles left him small choice of company; that he was rated with
dwarfs and outcasts because he worked with his hands; and of course no
hidalgo, who was a perfect master of the art of time-wasting, could
take seriously any low-blooded creature who earned his right to live by
working.  If Velazquez had been on the same footing as Rubens--had he
enjoyed the same position that Goya, with no greater official
appointment, was to hold a little more than a century after his
death--we may presume that the dwarfs would not have been painted, and
that Velazquez' art would have been given to the service of the
blue-blooded gentlemen who were making as big a muddle of Spanish
interests as their country's worst enemies could desire.  One hesitates
to say that they would have been less interesting sitters, because we
know that nobody, however dull and stupid in appearance, could fail to
become interesting at the hands of the painter.  It is fair to
remember, too, in defence of the Spanish attitude, that the years were
given not to the arts of peace but to those of war; that leisure was
scanty, intrigue unceasing, and the austerity of life was made greater
by the strong and merciless grip of the Church.  Formality and
superstition marched hand in hand in a court whose ruler, if we may
judge by his portraits, had forgotten how to smile.  Then again, the
atmosphere of the Madrid court, for all its dulness and secrecy and
unhealthy ways, was not as it became under Charles III., when Godoy
played the part of Count Olivarez, and the Countess Benavente, the
Duchess of Alba, and other women as frail as they were beautiful, did
not hesitate to indulge in open intrigue with the king's painter.  Turn
to the canvases of Velazquez and you will not find a woman who was
fascinating enough to have been worth the trouble and danger of an
intrigue.  The wives of Philip IV. could not but have been virtuous,
and would have had but small sympathy with pretty women.  To be sure
Philip IV. had many mistresses, but he did not ask his court painter to
record their beauty.

Before Velazquez returned to Madrid from his second visit to Italy, he
seems to have painted the portrait of the dwarf known as "El Primo,"
now in the Prado.  This man, known in private life as Don Louis de
Hacedo, accompanied Philip on a tour, and he seems to have been a
studious person, because the artist has depicted him with book, pen,
and paper, and given him a refined expression.  The others have little
to redeem their ugliness and deformity.  The child of Vallecas seems to
be the dwarf who figures with Don Balthasar Carlos in the first picture
that Velazquez painted of the unfortunate young prince, the one that is
now in America.  He has grown a little older and a little more ugly in
the canvas that is devoted entirely to his portrait; he does not wear
good clothes, but a coarse green coat with stockings to match.  The
Idiot of Coria is also dressed in green, though his garments are a
little richer, but Don Antonio seems to have been a person of some
importance.  He is pictured in the Prado standing beside a beautiful
mastiff almost as big as himself, and he wears a ruddy brown dress
worked with gold.  He carries a large plumed hat in his hand.
Sebastian de Morra, who sits facing the audience, has one of the most
wonderful heads ever set on canvas by the artist.  This dwarf too is
dressed in the green costume that would seem to have been worn by the
dwarfs attached to the court of Spain.  In addition to the little
company of dwarfs there were buffoons at the court, and of these
Velazquez painted Pablillos, who is known as "the comedian," and Don
Juan of Austria, whose portrait is a triumph of harmony in colour, the
pink of mantle and stockings contrasting admirably with black doublet
and cape.

=====================================================================

PLATE VI.--ADMIRAL ADRIANO PULIDO PAREJA

This picture may be seen in the National Gallery.  It is signed and
dated 1639, and was purchased from the Longford Castle Collection in
1890.  Señor Beruete holds a strong opinion that it was not painted by
Velazquez.

[Illustration: Plate VI.]

=====================================================================

In the last years the painter seems to have gone a little further down
in the social scale in search of his sitters, for the "Æsop" is a
beggar, and "Menippus" is no better.  To all these sufferers and
outcasts Velazquez responded with a sympathy that is not less clearly
revealed than the technique that gives so much enduring delight to
artists the world over.

In the final decade of the painter's life Philip seems to have given
him no more than two sittings.  Perhaps the artist's "Mars" and his
"Venus with the Mirror" gave offence in Madrid, where the nude was only
accepted if it was painted by some artist who had won his fame outside
the Iberian Peninsula.  The whole trend of life in the court of Mariana
of Austria was opposed to the presentation of the nude in art.  The two
late pictures of Philip, of which the one is in the Prado and the
second in our National Gallery, are quite the most finished of all his
studies of his royal master.  The face, free from even a suggestion of
human interest or enthusiasm, has no emotion whatsoever save
disillusionment and sadness.  The spectator gets a suggestion that life
has resolved itself into a long series of formal duties and formal
enjoyments, and that neither suffices to make it worth living.  Duty to
the world at large and to the vast empire slipping from his grasp seems
to be all that holds Philip; and when we consider that he had lost his
first wife and her promising son, and of his children by his second
wife one or two were dead already; that dissipation and anxiety had
sapped his energies, and superstition had crabbed his intelligence; it
is not strange that the face should be as it is.

In 1658 Philip conferred upon Velazquez the knighthood of Santiago, and
money was deposited on his behalf by a friend who understood the
painter's financial straits to pay for the inquiries relating to his
genealogy.  In spite of the king's wishes, the Council appointed to
inquire into the antecedents of the painter refused to admit him,
though Velazquez supplied many proofs that his blood was pure and his
origin honourable.  At last, Philip applied to the Pope Alexander VII.
for a dispensation in the artist's favour, realising that the Vatican
was a Court whose jurisdiction was unlimited in its scope.  The Pope
was complaisant: he could hardly be otherwise to Philip IV.; he sent a
brief that enabled Velazquez, after long delays, to obtain the much
coveted order.  The story that Philip bestowed it upon Velazquez as a
reward for the picture "Las Meniñas" is one of the pretty fables that
must be disregarded, and it seems likely that Philip only exerted
himself on his painter's behalf because he wished him to superintend
the arrangements for the festivities that were to celebrate the
marriage of the Infanta Maria Teresa with Louis XIV.  If we may read
character in physiognomy, there is little risk that Philip would have
behaved generously without cause.

Velazquez left Madrid for Irun, on the Franco-Spanish frontier, in
April 1660.  The work was harassing; he was not a _persona grata_ with
his colleagues, and none sought to lighten his burdens.  He returned to
the capital at the end of June, when Madrid is not fit to live in, and
was taken ill a month later.  Hard and unremitting labour, the folly
and bitter opposition of men who were not worthy to clean his palette,
the inconveniences and delays of travel in Spain, and the tender
mercies of several Spanish doctors of repute, seem to have combined,
with a bad attack of fever, to bring a troubled life to its closing
scene.  The end came on the 6th of August 1660, when, to quote Señor
Beruete, "he delivered up his soul to God, who had created him to be
the admiration of the world."

The body was decorated with the ornaments of the knights of Santiago
and buried in the parish church of St. John the Baptist.  Within a week
his devoted wife, Juana de Pacheco Velazquez, followed him to a rest
that no ceremonial of the Spanish court could disturb.

Strange as it may seem to those who know nothing of Spain, the petty
worries and vexations to which Velazquez had been subjected did not
cease with his death.  It was decided by the authorities that the
thousand ducats paid to the dead painter for superintending the works
of the Alcazar must be returned, and in order that the claim might be
met, the contents of the artist's studio and some of his furniture
would seem to have been seized.  King Philip recorded his gracious
distress at this decision, but did nothing to overrule it.

Litigation followed, and after some years the claim to the thousand
ducats was withdrawn by the authorities, the affairs of the master were
wound up for all time, and the stigma of debt was removed from the
memory of a man who never received a tithe of his deserts.

Philip IV. took Juan del Mazo, the painter's son-in-law, to be court
painter in Velazquez' place, and the appointment is worth noting,
because it is to this worthy man's wonderful facility for echoing his
father-in-law's style that we owe the presence of so many imitations in
the world's public galleries and private collections.  Some of these
clever copies of lost pictures have remained unchallenged until recent
years, and whether this be a tribute to the capacity of del Mazo or a
reflection upon the capacity of critics, is a question lying beyond the
scope of this little book.  But it is not difficult to understand that
the renown of Velazquez was on the increase for a few years after his
death, and that Mazo, who was clever and poorly paid, and had a sincere
respect for his father-in-law, should have remembered that there is no
greater flattery than imitation.



IV

A RETROSPECT

It is in no spirit of extravagance that one ventures to say that the
life of Velazquez was a long and tragic struggle against surroundings
detrimental to the full and natural expression of his genius, nor is it
surprising that the people who had followed his career with
indifference saw very little matter for comment when he died.  There
were a few useless and pompous ceremonies associated with his
obsequies, and Spain went on with the daily task, the common round,
unconscious of her loss.  So many material possessions were passing
from hands too weak to hold or to administer them that the death of an
artist could not be noticed.

=====================================================================

PLATE VII.--DONNA MARIANA OF AUSTRIA

This picture was brought from the Escorial to the Prado in 1845.  The
lady was the second wife of Philip IV., and would have been the wife of
Don Balthasar Carlos had he lived.

[Illustration: Plate VII.]

=====================================================================

Fair-minded critics may hesitate to say with Spain's enemies that
civilisation ends with the Pyrenees, but it is certain that the Spanish
attitude towards life has differed from that of other countries to an
extent that has left indelible impressions upon art and literature.
Velazquez carried a little of the Andalusian sun to Castile, but the
heavy cloud that settled upon the Spanish court speedily obscured it.
Life for the painter was an affair of constant struggle against
financial and social difficulties, of endless work for unresponsive
masters; and the labour was not lightened by any of the associations
that helped the great masters of the Italian School who had some share
of light and honour.  The funereal pomp of the Spanish court; the
strange climatic conditions of Madrid, where you may pass in a moment
from a blaze of sun that scorches to a blast of icy wind that strikes a
fatal blow at the lungs; the hard and unattractive landscape; the
proud, cruel, and impassive people who cannot even feign an interest in
such affairs as art or letters, all served to leave their impression
upon the painter's work.  We cannot imagine that any artist who worked
in Madrid in the seventeenth century could become a colourist after the
manner of the Venetians; he would not see the colour unless he went to
Catalonia or Andalusia and entered into their stirring national life.
Then again Spain was influenced by the Moors, and eastern art is more
concerned with harmony than colouring, more concerned to blend neutral
tints than present rich tones.

The writer has seen many pictures in the studios of modern Madrid that
are inspired directly by the Italians, for nowadays Spanish artists
flock to Italy, where they learn to imitate the Venetian colour
schemes, and to become third-rate echoes of old masters.  There are a
few men who paint interesting pictures in Spain to-day--Pradilla and
Carbonero are among the best; but Spain does not hold a great artist.
The last of all died in exile in Bordeaux in the early days of the last
century, and left his gifts to the French School of Manet.

Velazquez could never have become a flamboyant colourist.  A few of the
pictures in the Prado have some reds and pinks; for example, "Las
Hilanderas," in which there is a red curtain, and the picture of Philip
on horseback, in which the king wears a pink scarf.  There are high
colours in "The Coronation of the Virgin" and a few others, but as a
rule Velazquez wrought with a subdued palette, and sought to weave
harmonies in grey and silver.  Bright colours are an expression of the
joy of life, and this was unknown to the Spaniards of Castile.  Murillo
has colour, but then he was always an Andalusian.  Just as Velazquez
borrowed very little from his sitters and gave a great deal, so he
claimed next to nothing from the primary colours, and he gave a colour
sense that is indescribably beautiful to silver and grey.  This was his
deliberate choice and judgment, but it is impossible to forget that
surroundings and associations must have had a great deal to do with it.
Men who live lives that are complete in the fullest sense of the term
have a natural craving for glowing hues, and may find Velazquez dull if
they come to the Prado from the Academy of Venice; but unless their
tastes have become wholly vitiated, unless their eyes are suffering
from a surfeit of light, they will soon learn to find that their best
beloved masters would not bear transplanting.  They belong to the soil
of the country they worked in, while Velazquez, like Rembrandt, can
travel to any climate, and shine with unclouded glory in any
atmosphere.  It is impossible to imagine that Rubens could have painted
with the palette that served Velazquez, but the greater of the two men
has given the world an invaluable lesson in appreciation, and because
Nature is full of exquisite colour harmonies that are quite subdued in
tone it is well that we should have been taught to appreciate them.
Velazquez himself declared that Raphael did not please him, but Titian
did; he found in him the greatest of all the Venetians.  And yet it is
hard to say that he took anything from the admired master, because with
Velazquez admiration and imitation are things apart.  He did not even
imitate El Greco, the painter whose influence upon the world of art is
not yet fully acknowledged or understood, and he did not copy Rubens,
whose splendours would have dazzled a weaker man.

Velazquez merely saw certain truths in Greco's handling of portraiture,
and accepted them.  Throughout his life he made a steady improvement in
the quality of the work done, but the changes came through
introspection rather than from any outside influence.

His pictures are divided by many critics into three styles, which may
be divided roughly by his visits to Italy.  In the early days the paint
on his canvas was very thick, the shadows were heavy, the composition
was not always conclusive or well devised.  The one quality was that
irreproachable throughout all the years was the drawing, which was
always masterly.  From the days of the early "Bodegones" down to the
"Meniñas" nobody could find a picture in which his drawing is obviously
at fault; although in speaking of Velazquez it is of course difficult
to separate drawing from painting.  As he grew up the sense of
composition and colour harmony became stronger and stronger, and the
faults passed.  At the same time, Velazquez was a severe critic of his
own work, and a careful examination shows that even those pictures to
which no suspicion can attach were retouched and corrected in the
making.

In this country one secures little more than a glimpse of the master's
work.  The National Gallery has nearly a dozen pictures, but there are
certain questions about the authenticity of some of them, and the
Philip in the Dulwich Gallery is rather more than doubtful.  The
Wallace Collection has a few beautiful examples of Velazquez, and after
that there are about fifty private owners of pictures that cannot be
readily seen.  Perhaps a considerable proportion of these works would,
if subjected to very careful scrutiny, reveal themselves as copies by
Mazo or others.  In France there are half-a-dozen fine pictures in the
Louvre.  Germany can show some in Berlin, Dresden, and Munich; Holland
has one or two.  There are less than a dozen in all Italy.  The
Hermitage Gallery in St. Petersburg has five or six, and Vienna about
twice as many; but to see Velazquez one must go to Madrid.  The Museo
del Prado has over sixty of the artist's pictures, and though a small
proportion of these have scarcely a touch of the master's hand, all his
greatest work has found a resting-place here.  Las Lanzas, Las
Hilanderas, Las Meniñas, Philip IV. on horseback, Don Balthasar Carlos
on his pony, the Crucifixion, the Coronation of the Virgin, the Dwarfs,
Æsop, Menippus--all these are to be seen in the Prado; the greater
number being in the Salon of Isabella, an octagonal room in which one
may spend long hours.  The writer, on the occasion of his last visit to
Madrid, made a note of the number of visitors to the famous octagonal
room during the four mornings he spent there.  In the course of some
twelve hours the room was visited by some twelve people!  It is only
fair to say that it was not in the tourist season; the month was June,
and nobody stayed in Madrid from choice.

=====================================================================

PLATE VIII.--THE PRINCESS MARIA THERESA OF AUSTRIA

This daughter of Philip IV. became Queen of France.  The picture was
painted when she was about ten years of age, and consequently belongs
to the last period of Velazquez' work.  It was hung in the Alcazar
until some time in the eighteenth century, when it was transferred to
the Prado.

[Illustration: Plate VIII.]

=====================================================================

There are pictures by Velazquez to be seen in Madrid outside the Prado,
but for the most part they are in private houses, and are not
accessible to everybody.  Seville boasts half-a-dozen canvases by her
greatest painter, and there are a few elsewhere in Spain; but it may be
said that those who know the Salon of Isabella have seen Velazquez at
his best, and that those who have seen his other pictures and have not
visited the Prado, do not know Velazquez at all.

Perhaps there are pleasant surprises yet in store for the art world,
for many pictures are still untraced.  Doubtless some have been
destroyed by fire and others are in half-forgotten lumber rooms of
palaces and galleries from which they will be gathered in due course.
Velazquez owes a large part of his popularity in Spain to-day to the
measure of appreciation he has secured beyond the borders.  Every
second-hand dealer in Madrid or Seville has a "genuine Murillo" to
offer the stranger.  It is worth a thousand pounds; but as the dealer
is an honest man, he will sell it first for two hundred, then for one,
and finally for fifteen or even ten.  But no second-hand dealer shows a
"genuine Velazquez."  He knows that at best it could only appeal to
artists, and he knows them for strange folk endowed with much
enthusiasm, little money, and an embarrassing measure of knowledge of
the methods by which genuine old masters are created to supply a
long-felt want.



The plates are printed by BEMROSE DALZIEL, LTD., Watford

The text at the BALLANTYNE PRESS, Edinburgh



  IN THE SAME SERIES

  ARTIST.                    AUTHOR.

  VELAZQUEZ.                 S. L. BENSUSAN.
  REYNOLDS.                  S. L. BENSUSAN.
  TURNER.                    C. LEWIS HIND.
  ROMNEY.                    C. LEWIS HIND.
  GREUZE.                    ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
  BOTTICELLI.                HENRY B. BINNS.
  ROSSETTI.                  LUCIEN PISSARRO.
  BELLINI.                   GEORGE HAY.
  FRA ANGELICO.              JAMES MASON.
  REMBRANDT.                 JOSEF ISRAELS.
  LEIGHTON.                  A. LYS BALDRY.
  RAPHAEL.                   PAUL G. KONODY.
  HOLMAN HUNT.               MARY E. COLERIDGE.
  TITIAN.                    S. L. BENSUSAN.
  CARLO DOLCI.               GEORGE HAY.
  LUINI.                     JAMES MASON.
  TINTORETTO.                S. L. BENSUSAN.

  _Others in Preparation._





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