Velázquez was the greatest of all Spanish painters. He is famous mainly for his portraits, which rank among the finest in world art. Velázquez spent most of his life in Madrid. There he was the favourite artist of King Philip IV, who let no-one else paint him. He also portrayed other members of the royal family and of the court. These included the court ‘fools’ - people with mental and physical weaknesses who were kept to amuse the king. Velázquez showed great humanity by depicting them with respect rather than mockery. He twice visited Italy, where he painted a portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650).
Portrait of Innocent X
The pope was so impressed with the vivid way the picture caught his character that he said it was too truthful. Velázquez’s best-known painting is a large group portrait called Las Meninas (The Maids Of Honour, 1656). In it he shows himself at his easel with members of the court, including the young attendants who give the painting its title. Another famous picture is The Rokeby Venus (circa 1648), a beautiful female nude.
The Maids Of Honour
Portrait of the Infanta Margarita
Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan