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In a Spain dominated by a fervent religiosity, the painter Diego de Silva y Velàzquez emerged as a master practitioner of a secular form of art. His masterpiece, Las Meninas, is a painting full of mystery and intrigue, a work of startling intellectual and artistic complexity and the culmination of a unique relationship between Velàzquez and his patron, King Philip IV of Spain. From 1623, Velàzquez was employed to paint the family and court of Philip IV. His paintings remain as an enormously insightful record of the development of the royal family and, in many ways, the decline of the most powerful court in Europe. Under the watchful eye of Philip’s first minister, Count-Duke Olivares, Velàzquez single-handedly redefined the image of the Spanish monarchy, in manner akin to a modern-day public relations campaign. Whilst Velàzquez’s output was dominated by royal portraiture, he also produced psychologically insightful studies of people at the margins of society, such as the buffoons of the royal court or the poor of Seville. Velàzquez’s unique painting style, which combined at one time or another dramatic lighting, intense colouring and ever more loose brushstrokes, was dominated by a single preoccupation – to capture a degree of naturalism hitherto unachieved in the history of art. His work came to be admired by many in the centuries to come and as the French painter Edouard Manet remarked, ‘He is the painter of painters’.
Presented by Tim Marlow
1 x 23′
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