Diego Velázquez Picture Study Aid and Art Prints

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Diego Velázquez Picture Study

Included in this 28-page Diego Velázquez Picture Study Aid (see a sample Picture Study Aid here!) is the following:

  • a brief summary of the life of the Spanish Baroque painter Diego Velázquez (1599-1660).
  • a synopsis of seven of his works (see right).
  • resources for additional reading can be found in the Living Art Book Archive.
  • printable versions of the pieces covered (in the PDF version).
  • a brief discussion about Charlotte Mason’s ideas and methods for implementing picture study at different ages is also included.
  • the printed book is saddle-stitched with high-quality, 100-lb., smooth paper and full color.

There is also an option to order separate, professionally-printed copies of each piece for use during your picture study time in the drop-down menu below as well. These are printed on durable cardstock with a smooth finish on 8.5×11-inch, acid-free paper and display beautifully. The prints do not include the Picture Study Aid PDF download – this is a separate purchase.

The pieces discussed are:

  • The Supper at Emmaus (1622-1623)
  • Joseph’s Tunic (1630)
  • Philip IV of Spain in Brown and Silver (ca. 1631-1632)
  • The Coronation of the Virgin (1635-1636)
  • Juan de Pareja (1650)
  • The Spinners, or the Fable of Arachne (aka. Las Hilanderas) (1655-1660)
  • Las Meninas (1656)

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.


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 MeninasLas 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.

The intention of this Picture Study Aid is to equip the home educator with some basic facts and understanding of a sampling of the work of Diego Velázquez. It is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece or a complete biography of the artist.

About picture study, Ms. Mason recommended keeping learning as simple as possible, especially in the younger years, and put extra emphasis on the images by themselves.

There is 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. (vol 6 pg 216)

Definite teaching is out of the question; suitable ideas are easily given, and a thoughtful love of Art inspired by simple natural talk over the picture at which the child is looking. (PR Article “Picture Talks”)

…we begin now to understand that art is not to be approached by such an acadamised road. It is of the spirit, and in ways of the spirit must we make our attempt. We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves. A friendly picture-dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term. After a short story of the artist’s life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail.” (vol 6 pg 214)

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. (vol 6 pg 43)

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