Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599–1660)
Oil on canvas
32 x 27 1/2 in. (81.3 x 69.9 cm)
Purchase, Fletcher and Rogers Funds, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), by exchange, supplemented by gifts from friends of the Museum, 1971 (1971.86)
In 1648, Velázquez was dispatched to Rome by Philip IV of Spain to buy works of art for the Alcázar palace in Madrid. In Rome, he painted an official portrait of Pope Innocent X (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome). Before starting work on the papal portrait, he made an informal painting of his own assistant, Juan de Pareja, a Sevillian of Moorish descent. This picture was exhibited in Rome on March 19, 1650. In his life of Velázquez (1724), Palomino writes that the painting "was generally applauded by all the painters from different countries, who said that the other pictures in the show were art but this one alone was 'truth.'" The direct approach in this painting contrasts with the more formal structure of Velázquez's state portraits.