Velázquez Portrait of Philip III (Prado)

Velázquez: Portrait of Philip III

Museo Nacional del Prado, Room 24
Villanueva Building, Room 24

6 June – 29 October 2017

On display for the first time in the Museum’s galleries is the Portrait of Philip III by Velázquez, a work donated by William B. Jordan to the American Friends of the Prado Museum, which has ceded it to the Museum as a long-term deposit.

Velázquez’s painting is displayed alongside the Prado’s Philip II offering the Infante don Fernando to Victory by Titian, which has very recently been restored (with the support of Fundación Iberdrola España). In the 17th century Titian’s painting hung in the same room (the Salón Nuevo in the Alcázar in Madrid) as The Expulsion of the Moriscos by Velázquez, a painting directly connected with the newly acquired portrait of Philip III, which was executed as a study for it.

This donation and long-term deposit with the Prado will assist in completing the Museum’s presentation of Velázquez as a court portraitist. A work previously unknown to scholars, it casts new light on one of the key paintings produced by the artist during his early years at court: The Expulsion of the Moriscos.

Also on temporary display are Philip III by Pedro Vidal; and Philip IV in Armour and The Infante don Carlos, both by Velázquez, thus creating a context for understanding the Philip III portrait and the reasons for its attribution to Velázquez (stylistic analysis, technical characteristics, and its relationship to The Expulsion of the Moriscos).

The Portrait of Philip III is a previously unpublished work with stylistic features and technical characteristics that allow it to be attributed to Velázquez and to be associated with The Expulsion of the Moriscos, a work painted in 1627 in competition with Vicente Carducho, Eugenio Cajés and Angelo Nardi. It was lost in the Royal Alcázar (Madrid) fire of 1734, but descriptions of it survive confirming that the principal figure depicted in it was Philip III, shown standing next to an allegory of Spain and pointing towards the Moriscos as they were being expelled. Velázquez never met Philip III, who died in 1621, and he based his work on portraits of the monarch by other artists. This canvas is a preliminary study that he used to establish an image of the King, thus explaining its sketchy nature as a working tool rather than an independent, finished work.

The recent restoration of Titian’s Philip II offering the Infante don Ferdinand to Victory, has recovered the qualities of Titian’s original, but has also made Carducho’s enlargements more visible. This is particularly evident in the architectural elements; and in the inferior quality blue pigments that Carducho used, resulting in a different aging process and making his modifications visible. Following the current display, the canvas will be shown with Carducho’s additions concealed.

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