Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
(June, 1599 – August 6, 1660), commonly referred to as Diego
Velázquez, was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the
court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the
contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. His
two visits to Italy while part of the Spanish court are well-documented.
In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural
significance, he created scores of portraits of the Spanish royal
family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating
in the production of his masterpiece, Las Meninas (1656).
Starting in the first quarter of the nineteenth
century, Velázquez's artwork proved a model for the realist
and impressionist painters, in particular Édouard Manet.
Since that time, more modern artists, including Spain's Pablo Picasso
and Salvador Dalí, have paid tribute to Velázquez
by recreating several of his most famous works.
Velázquez, born in Seville, Andalusia early in June 1599
and baptized on June 6, was the son of Juan Rodríguez de
Silva, a lawyer of noble Portuguese descent, and Jerónima
Velázquez, a member of Seville's hidalgo class, an order
of minor aristocracy (it was a Spanish custom, in order to maintain
a legacy of maternal inheritance, for the eldest male to adopt the
name of his mother). He was educated by his parents to fear God
and, intended for a learned profession, received good training in
languages and philosophy. But he showed an early gift for art; consequently,
he began to study under Francisco de Herrera, a vigorous painter
who disregarded the Italian influence of the early Seville school.
Velázquez remained with him for one year. It was probably
from Herrera that he learned to use brushes with long bristles.
After leaving Herrera's studio when he was 11 years
old, Velázquez began to serve as an apprentice under the
pedantic Francisco Pacheco, a founded artist and teacher in Seville.
Though considered a generally dull, commonplace painter, at times
Pacheco would express a simple, direct realism that is in contradiction
to the style of Raphael that he was taught. Velázquez remained
in Pacheco's school for five years, studying proportion and perspective
and witnessing the trends in the literary and artistic circles of