For those that are already familiar with the Spanish master’s work, this exhibit is a wonderful voyage through his work in roughly chronological order but intelligently organized by the various themes he worked on. For those that are unfamiliar with his work, it might be hard to put yourself into the 17th century Spanish court where the majority of his work is focused, but if you are able to do so, it is well worth it. His is the richest and most delicate touch after the Venetians such as Titian and Veronese (both of which influenced him) capturing light and shadows in the most striking ways. His portraits of the Hapsburg court in Madrid are revelations of character and power…and powerlessness. I was particular struck by the various court jesters and at least a little depressed at the thought that infirmities such as mental retardation, stunted growth, and physical deformations were all subject to laughter and derision and constituted a disproportionate amount of time in the life at court. That being said, there are not a lot of uglier monarchs than Philippe IV which you will have ample time to judge for yourself. Don’t come looking for the infamous and splendid Meninas. The chef d’oeuvre of Velasquez is far too fragile ever again to leave the confines of the Prado in Madrid so you’ll have to settle for a few sketches and copies. However, there is a very, very insightful and interesting video about this masterpiece in the corridor leading to the final set of rooms.
Leave yourself about an hour or two and do grab the audioguide. The 20-odd commentaries are all very interesting and help explain – especially given the particularly foreign atmosphere to us 21st century folk – the reason why this expo (the first ever full retrospective in Paris for Velazquez) is so important and why is work is so immortal.
Did you enjoy this expo as well? If so, let me know in the comments.