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Indepth Arts News:

"Unprecedented Gathering of Six Major Paintings by Velázquez"
1999-11-16 until 2000-01-16
Frick Collection
New York, NY, USA United States of America

Marking the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599–1660), The Frick Collection presents together for the first time in New York six of the Spanish master's portraits belonging to public collections in the city. This unprecedented viewing opportunity is the result of a special collaboration between The Hispanic Society of America and The Frick Collection. The Hispanic Society of America has not lent any of its old master paintings to another institution in the past ninety years, but with this exhibition establishes a policy of participating in exhibitions in which it is a full collaborator. Three significant works come to The Frick Collection for this presentation: Gaspar de Guzman, Count-Duke of Olivares; Camillo Astalli, Known as Cardinal Pamphili; and Portrait of a Little Girl. Also on view will be the celebrated painting from The Frick Collection, King Philip IV of Spain, one of Velázquez’s greatest portraits of a subject so central to his work and life. In recognition of this extraordinary occasion, The Metropolitan Museum of Art lends two remarkable portraits by the master, those of Juan de Pareja and María Teresa, Infanta of Spain. Velázquez in New York Museums is organized jointly by The Frick Collection and The Hispanic Society of America and is on view from November 16, 1999, through January 16, 2000.

Velázquez in New York Museums is the only homage to the artist that is being offered by an American museum during 1999, the internationally celebrated year marking the anniversary of his birth. Curating the exhibition is Jonathan Brown, Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts, The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. The exhibition has been made possible, in part, through the generosity of the Fellows of The Frick Collection, Banco Santander Central Hispano, and the endeavors of the Consul General of Spain in New York. Publication of the booklet Velázquez in New York Museums has been made possible through the support of Melvin R. Seiden.

Mitchell Codding, Director of The Hispanic Society of America, announced, We are pleased to collaborate with The Frick Collection for Velázquez in New York Museums. The Hispanic Society is lending its three portraits by the remarkable artist, which have not left the Society's building at Audubon Terrace at Broadway and 155th Street in ninety years. This represents the first loan of any old master painting from the Society's collection since 1910.

Exceptional powers of observation and a vibrant technique make Velázquez the greatest Spanish painter of his century, and this loan presentation in the Frick’s Oval Gallery will demonstrate the variety and strength of the Spanish master's work over a lifetime of evolution. Born in Seville, Velázquez was apprenticed at the age of eleven to the painter Francisco Pacheco. In 1623 he was called to Madrid, where he soon painted the first of several portraits of King Philip IV. Velázquez became not only court painter, but also a trusted servant to the King, who ennobled him and made him a knight of the Military Order of Santiago and a gentleman-in-waiting. Velázquez’s development as a court portraitist, his principal occupation for nearly thirty-seven years, is epitomized in two of the works in the presentation at The Frick Collection. The portrait Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, which represents the nobleman who brought Velázquez to court, was done soon after his appointment as royal painter (1623), while the Frick’s King Philip IV of Spain, a formal portrait of the artist’s patron (1644), shows him as a mature master.

Velázquez’s work profited greatly from study of the royal collection, which was rich in paintings of the Venetians, especially Titian, and he probably also drew inspiration from Rubens during the latter's visit to Madrid from 1628 to 1629. Travel also played an important role in the development of Velázquez's oeuvre, although he made only two trips out of his native country, both to Italy, one from 1629 to 1631 and another from 1649 to 1651. The exhibition features two works executed during the latter stay in Rome, the bust-length portrait of Camillo Astalli, Known as Cardinal Pamphili, an upstart member of the court of Pope Innocent X, and Juan de Pareja, Velázquez’s former slave and assistant. It is believed that these works have not been seen together since leaving the artist’s studio. Unlike the state portraits, which reveal little about the sitters’ personalities, these small-scale paintings are full of expressive energy.

The final component consists of two portraits of young female subjects, one an unidentified young girl and the other a princess. Portrait of a Little Girl is one of only a few informal portraits done by Velázquez. While she is thought by some to be his granddaughter, her identity remains a charming mystery. However, the princess, María Teresa, Infanta of Spain, is one of the most recognizable of the artist’s sitters. The oldest child of the King, she was painted many times by Velázquez to meet the demand for her likeness as the arrangement of her marriage was brokered for political gain.

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