Diego Velázquez Picture Study for Homeschoolers

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Diego Velázquez Picture Study Aid - ahumbleplace.com

To read more about Charlotte Mason picture study and to see the other Picture Study Aids I have available, click here.

Luca Giordano called Velázquez’s Las Meninas a “Theology of Painting.” Velázquez’s biographer Antonio Palomino, repeating the expression, adds: “Meaning that just as Theology is the highest of the Sciences, so that canvas represents the apogee of Painting.” Similar praise, coming from the most diverse historical perspectives and most contradictory artistic attitudes, has been repeated through the centuries for this and others of Velázquez’s works.

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez – “Velázquez and his Art”

Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) was one of those artists whom I studied very quickly in college but probably could not identify many of his paintings prior to writing this Picture Study Aid. Many, except, that is, for Las Meninas. Las Meninas definitely hangs in the halls of my imagination as it begs so many questions that remain largely unanswered. Who is being painted on the massive canvas? Am I, as the viewer, being painted? Are the people in the mirror being painted? Is it even a mirror? Is the little girl being painted? Is the artist in the painting working on the canvas that will eventually become the painting at which I’m looking right now?

This piece lends itself so well to picture study as it invites the viewer to ask so many questions. This is a common theme throughout Velázquez’s paintings as many of them have this almost interactive quality that draws the viewer in, inviting us to become part of the scene.

One of the things I found interesting while I was doing research for this Picture Study Aid was that Velázquez spent most of his adult life attempting to elevate the status of painters. Prior to his reign as Philip IV’s official court painter, they were often classified with other “crafters.” He proved that those who worked with brush and oils were not merely every-day artisans, but true magicians of the canvas. About him specifically, Rafael Alberti wrote:

In your hand a chisel
would have become a brush;
a brush, an ordinary brush,
a bird on the wing.

I’m excited to announce today that I now have a Picture Study Aid, as well as accompanying prints, for Diego Velázquez available in both print and PDF format! The book includes a brief summary of his life, key topics about seven of his paintings, and printable versions or professionally printed copies of the pieces discussed (without artist name or titles).

Diego Velázquez Picture Study Aid - ahumbleplace.com

Caveats

This guide is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, which is intentional. I tried to keep it all very simple in the spirit of there being:

…no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman.

CHARLOTTE MASON (VOL 6 PG 216)

Instead, this Picture Study Aid is meant to offer basic information about the artists as well as ready answers should your student ask about a particular aspect of a piece and the explanation isn’t readily evident. Ms. Mason emphasized not focusing on strict academic discourse when doing picture study but rather simply exposing students to the art itself:

His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new;––…––in fact, every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees. Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too,––sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight nights. At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold.

CHARLOTTE MASON (VOL 6 PG 43)
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