Friday, June 6, 2008

Diego Velázquez: The amazing Painter

When studying Art history we come across many beautiful styles. Mannerism and the Baroque style are two that are filled with incredibly strong use of light. The careful handling of brush stroke to create the sense of light and reflection is one task that is not simple. Among the painters of these two eras that have utilized and honed this skill, there are two which stand out as the leaders in their home countries. Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572) was a brilliant Italian painter of the High mannerist style. Agnolo was court painter to Medici and created a large numbers of portraits and religious works. Studying under Jacopo Pontormo, Agnolo developed a keen eye for light and a fluid hand for color. Almost a century after Agnolo Bronzinoâs birth Spain was welcoming the arrival of Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). Velazquez was a student of Francisco Pacheco, who in a matter of time came to be his father-in-law. After Velazquezâs marriage at the age of 19, he moved to Madrid. There he obtained a position as court painter and worked on religious pieces, landscapes and portraits of the royal family of Phillip IV. Diego was a master realist that seemed to breath life into his subjects with few strokes of his brush.

One of Velazquez's works that show his subtle yet beautiful use of light and darks is the informal painting of his assistant Juan de Parreja. This work is noted as a truthful painting and one that has such a masterful touch that the sitter Juan de Parreja seems to breathe.

On examination of this work I question: Why would Velazquez do such a beautiful painting of his assistant? Needless to say Juan de Parreja, the sitter, appears to be of African American descent. Search as you may but portraits of this caliber with African American sitters are few. And the fact that this was an informal painting means Velazquez probably didnt charge Parreja, but if he did as an assistant it would be hard to believe that Parreja would be able to pay for such a work. Nonetheless the painting is here and examination of it reveals that Velazquez probably had a deep respect for his assistant. Juan de Parreja is shown seated and painted from his breast up. His right hand seems to be just below his chest, this pose of the hand may hold true to the assumption of Diego Velazquezâ respect. The hand on the chest symbolizes an attitude of one blessed with high wisdom and calm judgment. And the strong black that is shown throughout the whole painting may also represent a hidden wisdom found in this sitter that Velazquez may have been fond of.

Besides the hidden qualities of this painting the obvious hold a much more important significance. The subtle use of white on Parrejaâs face to create light and the even flow of rose in his cheeks is dramatically beautiful. Velazquez used such a sensational palette for Parrejas skin. You can tell Velazquez subtly echoed the green of Parrejas jacket in various spots along his face. Another beautifully rendered section of the painting is the white lace that is around Juanâs neck and shoulders. Velazques found a brilliant way to depict the texture of the material with very few strokes. Here he also echoes the greens and flesh tones within the inside collar and along the outer edge of the garment. Specifically the edge of the material is wonderfully painted. As I move my eyes down the painting I notice how the sleeve is worked. Although it is dark it seems like a few well place strokes give this portion of his portrait a wonderful “soft as downâ feeling. Although I believe this painting to be a great piece of art there are a couple of things I would have liked to have seen different. The hand that I referred to before has an almost swollen look to it. I believe Velazquez could have reworked it so as to show a little more defined bone structured areas. Along wth the hand I also believe that the background, although beautiful in its simplicity, is missing something. Perhaps something that would make the connection between Diego Velazquez and the sitter Juan de Parreja. But above that the minimum palette that was used successfully completed a work of art that will forever be adored.

Agnolo Bronzino on the other hand used a wider palette for his rendition of â Portrait of a young man. The subject whom is unknown is understood by the Metropolitan Museum to be someone perhaps in the literary circle Bronzino was associated with. Bronzino was known to be a poet and probably did this portrait for a close friend. The young man is shown holding a book, which is probably a collection of literary works. The book, shown slightly open may represent a truth that wants to be uncovered, maybe a secret that can be read while adoring this masterpiece. Held over a mysteriously plum painted table the book is wonderfully held in balance. The subject hands are beautifully done. The smallest detail in the knuckle shows the tension of grip and is easily understood.

As noted in a dictionary of symbols the doors in the background may represent a feminine attribute. Perhaps this is the secret that is being unraveled in the layout of the portrait. To further assess this as we look at the young mans lips we notice that he may be wearing some sort of lipstick or lip-gloss. Maybe this represents the young mans choice of lifestyle or perhaps it is a reference to the young mans great speech skills and poetic expression. The fact that the young man is wearing a hat and is in dark clothing may also represent a hiding of some sort. But to get away from the young mans sexual preference or his choice of life, we can focus our attention on the skill Bronzino employed. To examine the garment of the poser is to view exquisite art. The variation of hues used on the jacket especially around the ruffled sleeve are absolutely gorgeous. The shadows that run from the top of the young mans head to his thumbs, although a little harsh on the face, are of beautiful color and intensity. The beads of decoration on the posers hat are so well done they appear to be almost touchable at a distance.

No comments: