In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Velázquez

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies and Bibliographies
  • Biographies, Monographs, and Overviews
  • Catalogue Raisonnés
  • Documentary and Primary Sources
  • Portraits and Portraiture
  • Technical Analysis
  • Velázquez and Seville
  • Velázquez and 17th-Century Literary Arts
  • Velázquez and 17th-Century Visual Artists
  • Reception of Velázquez in the 18th and 19th Centuries
  • Reception of Velázquez in the 20th Century

Renaissance and Reformation Velázquez
Xanthe Brooke
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0132


The 400th anniversary in 1999 of the birth of the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez (b. 1599–d. 1660), the leading artist at the court of Philip IV whose influence has subsequently been felt on artists as varied as Manet and Picasso, was celebrated with numerous exhibits, conferences, and related publications. The most important of these publications was Portús 2000 (cited under Anthologies and Bibliographies), an invaluable bibliography of Velázquez studies published between 1962 and 1999 that built on a previous Spanish bibliography by J. A. Gaya Nuño: Bibliografía critica y antologia de Velázquez (Madrid, 1963). Because Portús’s bibliography is so comprehensive, this article focuses mainly on the publications that appeared in or since1999, although key works before that period are also included. It is typical of Velázquez’s work that key masterpieces do not fit neatly into the traditional artistic genres: his bodegones (kitchen and inn scenes) also reveal religious imagery; Las Meninas is both court portrait and scene from everyday artistic life; The Spinners shows working life yet alludes to classical mythology and provides a pictorial commentary on the work of Velázquez’s artistic contemporaries and predecessors. So rather than subsuming paintings into broadly defined sections on religious or genre paintings, this article includes sections on individual key works. Twentieth-century Velázquez studies have witnessed methodological shifts from a concern with the artist himself or attention to the works, during which the emphasis has mainly been on textual sources and the compositional influence of European prints (showing that Velázquez’s supremely naturalistic style was not only inspired by nature), to an increasing attention to the paintings’ reception. The decade following 2000 saw the publication of studies on particular discrete periods or aspects of Velázquez’s career and work, focusing on his early career in Seville and the development of naturalism, his late paintings and technique, and the reputation of his art in countries such as Britain, Italy, France, and the United States. There has been a boom in studies on individual paintings. The increasing cultural role played by museums is evident in the preponderance of exhibit catalogues, which often develop an especial focus on the technical examination of Velázquez’s works. Art historians and conservation scientists have collaborated to analyze paintings, providing new information on the genesis and elaboration of pictures, which is particularly valuable given the paucity of Velázquez drawings to throw light on his working methods. Despite the centuries of research, there are still few letters known from Velázquez about his artistic practice, which means that commentaries by near contemporaries such as Antonio Palomino are still required reading (see Harris 1982, cited under Biographies, Monographs, and Overviews).

Anthologies and Bibliographies

Portús 2000 is an excellent introduction to Velázquez studies and offers an overview of the state of literature up to 1999. His introductory essay and critical bibliography covers general interpretations, documentary discoveries, critical catalogues, studies of individual works, and Velázquez’s posthumous fame in factual and fictional publications. Entries vary from brief, one-sentence comments to one and a half page summaries that act as mini-reviews. Stratton-Pruitt 2002 is a book of multidisciplinary essays by established and younger scholars. It includes essays on the religious and gender context in Velázquez’s work at court; his relationship with Italy, northern Europe, and contemporary writers; and the links between his art and court music. Individual paintings such as Venus at Her Mirror and Las Meninas are discussed, a figure in the latter controversially identified as the playwright Calderon de la Barca. The first section in Barbé-Coquelin de Lisle 2002 is notable for Odile Delenda’s essay surveying Velázquez’s religious art. The second section focuses on the critical fortunes of Velázquez among visual and dramatic artists in 19th- and 20th-century France, Catalonia, and modern Spain. The Seville section of Symposium Internacional Velázquez documents Velázquez’s relationship with other artists, his workshop, and patrons and makes fascinating use of zooarchaeology to inform our knowledge of his bodegones. The genre section includes a study by costume expert Bernis controversially reidentifying the supposed portrait of sculptor Montañés as Cano in clerical dress. Other essays discuss technical research on portraits and perspective. Morán Turina 2006 contains essays on the artist’s bodegones, equestrian portraits, the relationship with the king’s antiquities collection, works by Rubens and Titian, and plays by Calderon and Lope de Vega before focusing on Venus at her Mirror and Velázquez’s posthumous influence in Spain. It provides often innovative views on Velázquez’s work and character that challenge received opinion. Harris 2006 is the first in a series of anthologies of the leading Velázquez authorities in Britain, Spain (Angulo Iñiguez 2007), and America (Brown 2008), published to provide a basic reference tool. The articles in Harris 2006 mix Velázquez’s patronage with discussions of individual conservation treatments, 19th-century reception (especially in Britain), and the artist as connoisseur. Portús provides an illuminating introductory essay to Angulo Iñiguez 2007, which includes Angulo’s seminal, 102-page 1947 essay (Velázquez, como compuso sus principales cuadros, Sevilla, Spain: Laboratorio de Arte de la Universidad de Sevilla) on Velázquez’s use of prints as a compositional source for his paintings. Two major themes emerge from Brown 2008: Velázquez’s relationship as court painter with Philip IV and his technique, and the related problem of contentious attributions, some of which Brown 2008 analyzes robustly.

  • Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. Estudios completos sobre Velázquez. Colección Velazqueña. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2007.

    Medium-format, 388-page collection of thirty-seven articles, notes, and reviews published in Spanish between 1946 and 1983 by the doyen of 17th-century studies Diego Angulo (b. 1901–d. 1986). With a twenty-page introductory essay by the Prado curator of 17th-century painting Javier Portús, includes biographical and bibliographical chronologies and index and 177 illustrations.

  • Barbé-Coquelin de Lisle, Geneviève. Velázquez aujourd’hui: Actes du colloque scientifique international (400e anniversaire de la naissance de l’artiste). Anglet, France: Atlantica, 2002.

    A 356-page volume of nineteen conference papers and debates. Papers are arranged in two thematic sections: Velázquez and his contemporaries in Seville, Spain, and Italy; and modern reaction to his work concluding with a provocative comparison by the Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal (b. 1932) contrasting El Greco in favor of Velázquez. Illustrated with thirty-two monochrome and color plates.

  • Brown, Jonathan. Collected Writings on Velázquez. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2008.

    Large-format, 448-page book of thirty-two collected articles published between 1964 and 2006 by the leading American Hispanist art-historian. Several are published in English for the first time. With a nine-page introductory essay by Bonaventura Bassegoda. Includes bibliography and 190 illustrations partly in color.

  • Harris, Enriqueta. Estudios completes sobre Velázquez/Complete Studies on Velázquez. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2006.

    Large-format, 456-page anthology of forty essays and reviews published by Enriqueta Harris (b. 1910–d. 2006), the leading British scholar on Velázquez. Book collects all her dispersed writings in English and Spanish published from 1950 on. Includes three-page bibliography and 205 illustrations, some in color.

  • Morán Turina, Miguel José. Estudios sobre Velázquez. Arte y estética 70. Madrid: Akal, 2006.

    Small-format, 216-page book of eight thought-provoking essays by a professor at Madrid’s Universidad Complutense. With 106 monochrome illustrations, unfortunately unlisted, as several are of rarely reproduced works by less well-known artists.

  • Portús, Javier. Entre dos centenarios: Bibliografía critica y antológica de Velázquez 1962–1999. Seville, Spain: Junta de Andalucía, 2000.

    Large-format, 396-page critical and essential Velázquez bibliography of publications both factual and fictional printed since 1962. Includes 1,118 entries published since Gaya Nuño’s 640-page bibliography (with 1,814 entries) published in Madrid in 1963. Accompanied by thirty-two-page introductory essay and sixteen pages of color illustrations of book and journal covers.

  • Stratton-Pruitt, Suzanne, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Velázquez. Cambridge Companions to the History of Art Series. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    Medium-format, 246-page collection of ten essays adopting an interdisciplinary approach to provide a synthetic overview. Essays focus on the interrelationship of the artist’s work with contemporary musical, theatrical, and literary practice. Includes forty-five pages of endnotes, selective seven-page bibliography to the most useful sources cited, and sixty-two monochrome illustrations.

  • Symposium Internacional Velázquez: Actas, Sevilla. Edited by Alfredo J. Morales. Seville, Spain: Junta de Andalucía, 2004.

    A 367-page volume of thirty-six multidisciplinary footnoted conference papers presented by international scholars. Divided into six sections including: Velázquez’s relations with Seville, Italy, Britain; 17th-century courtly culture; treatment of various pictorial themes including portrait reattributions; and the reception of his work from the 18th to the 20th century. Illustrated in monochrome.

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