Newly discovered Velasquez donated to the Prado

December 14 2016

Image of Newly discovered Velasquez donated to the Prado

Picture: Museo Prado

A new body called the American Friends of the Prado has acquired a recently discovered portrait of Philip III of Spain by Velasquez. The picture was found by the celebrated Velasquez scholar William B. Jordan, who has donated it to the AFP. Here's the full story from the Prado's press release:

The first donation received by American Friends of the Prado Museum, on this occasion made by the art historian William B. Jordan, has entered the Museo del Prado as a long-term deposit. This is a previously unpublished Portrait of Philip III, which exhaustive research and technical analysis have confirmed to be an autograph painting by Velázquez. It will be exhibited at the Prado as a temporary, renewable deposit.

The work is a preparatory painting for the face of Philip III executed by Velázquez in relation to his composition The Expulsion of the Moriscos, executed in 1627 but destroyed by the fire in the Real Alcázar in Madrid in 1734 and only known from written descriptions as no copy of it has survived. 

The addition of this work to the Museum’s collections as a long-term deposit will contribute to completing its representation of Velázquez as a royal portraitist, given that it is a work of outstanding quality and previously unpublished in the scholarly literature. As such, it will help to cast light on one of the key works of the artist’s early period at court.

The painting was acquired by William B. Jordan on the London art market, where it was catalogued as a Portrait of don Rodrigo Calderón due to a false inscription at the top. Following its restoration, Dr Jordan studied the painting, leading him to consider the idea that it is a work by Velázquez, specifically a preparatory painting for the face of Philip III in The Expulsion of the Moriscos. 

Among the reasons that have led Dr Jordan to defend this attribution are: 
Philip III appears to be aged around 40 in the painting, his age in 1609 when the moriscos were expelled from Spain. 

Stylistically, the work necessarily dates from later than 1609. It must have been produced between 1623, when Velázquez arrived at court and introduced a new style of royal portrait that corresponds to that of this work, and 1631, when he returned from Italy and adopted a notably different portrait style.

The fact that Philip III is in profile and looking up indicates that this is not a portrait (in which the sitter normally looks straight ahead) but an image to be included in a narrative scene.

The fact that the work’s characteristics are not comparable to the styles of the other portraitists working at the court in the 1620s, such as Van der Hamen, Maíno, Diricksen, etc. 

A study of written descriptions of The Expulsion of the Moriscos suggest that the portrait of Philip III in that scene had a similar expression to this one and was looking in the same direction. 

Again, a study of those descriptions led Dr Jordan to consider the idea that The Expulsion of the Moriscos was conceived as a pendant to Titian’s painting of Philip II offering the Infante don Fernando to Victory (Museo del Prado), which hung in the same room (the Salón Nuevo in the Alcázar) for which Velázquez’s work was painted. This idea led him to compare the portrait of Philip II in Titian’s work with that of Philip III in the present painting; a comparison that revealed numerous points of comparison with regard to the size and pose of the portraits.

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