If Zurbarán, Velázquez's contemporary and fellow Andalusian, remained committed throughout his life to stark contrasts of light and shade, Velázquez did not. After he moved to court his own handling of light began to look very modern; it became increasingly sophisticated and yet realistic, incomparably so for his times. He mastered the art of conveying atmospheric values subtly. The effect of this portrait of a lady derives not least from the neutral, lightgrey ground, and the subject's face and hair, which are blurred when we examine them closely, but from a distance seem to be seen through the dust-filled air of an inner chamber. The chair, a stylistic device Velázquez used frequently, is an example of Velázquez's ability to derive the strongest effects from restricted resources: as the sole prop, it seems to have appeared in the room by chance, bot it allows the lady to achieve a stately pose. A note an the back of the picture led to the earlier belief that she was the painter's wife, but she is now usually thought to be Countess Monterrey, the wife of a Spanish ambassador and sister of Livares. She lived in Italy, which indicates that the picture was painted as early as 1631, when Velázquez first returned from Rome.


  • Title: Portrait of a Lady
  • Creator: Diego Velázquez
  • Date Created: around 1630
  • Physical Dimensions: w101.7 x h124.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Canvas
  • Viewing notes: Diego Velázquez was a Spanish Baroque painter and the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He started his training under Francisco de Herrera and continued his education in the workshop of Francisco Pacheco, a great art theorist. In 1623 he became court painter in Madrid and gained a great reputation for his portraits of Philip IV. Supported by the King, in 1629 he made his first journey to Italy, where he copied artworks by Tintoretto, Raphael and Michelangelo who, together with Titian, all influenced his paintings from that point on. In 1651 he followed the wish of King Philip and quit his second journey through Italy. He came back to Spain where he was chosen by the King to fill the high office of aposentador mayor. His works in this period form the apotheosis of his style. Velázquez was deeply orientated to nature, he copied from the living subject and became one of the greatest Spanish naturalists. His works are characterized by the strong contrasts between light and dark. Among his compositions are many genre scenes, including the famous 'Old Woman Frying Eggs' (1618). 'Las Meninas' (1656) meanwhile is recognized as his magnus opus.
  • Style: Spanish
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Matthias Weniger // Photo: © http://www.bpk-images.de, b p k - Photo Agency / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist Place of Death: Madrid, Spain
  • Artist Place of Birth: Seville, Spain
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1599/1660-08-06

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