Velázquez: The Complete Works
The Spanish master managed to bottle the very breath of everyone from King to Commoner: this collection keeps them alive
The portraits of Spanish master Diego Rodriquez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660) will come as a revelation to the uninitiated. A major influence on the likes of Picasso and Bacon, his paintings cross all boundaries of class, ranging from royal portraits to images of workers smiling and drinking, thumbs aloft, for all the world as if they lived next door rather than Renaissance Spain.
This heavy-duty collection may not be the perfect format for experiencing Velázquez’s career in full: it’s text-heavy and academic enough to appeal largely to art history graduates, slightly at odds with the open, human qualities of the art itself. The power of many pictures is undermined by zoomed-in elements on the pages preceding the full image, and you’re left feeling that a wordless virtual stroll through a Velázquez exhibition would tell you more than a million words ever could.
But above all, this collection should be inspiring for any true artist: the fidelity of the reproduction shows every rough brush-stroke and scribbled detail before pulling out to show the overall effect of uncannily lifelike portraiture, humanity stopped in time and captured on canvas forever. This is how it’s done.
Velázquez painted plenty of noble folk in equestrian mode, such as Count-Duke of Olivares on Horseback.