Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Copying a Master

As if doing a copy of an old master's painting wasn't daunting enough, I choose my favorite of all time, the painter of painters, Diego Velázquez.  This portrait is pretty special for so many reasons.  The original was actually just recently re-attributed to him after years of discrepancies and debates over whether he actually did it, or if it was simply a workshop portrait... or someone of the artist's studio.
What brought about these discrepancies was the numerous restorations that the painting endured.  The painting was recently restored for the final time in 2009.  Upon its restoration, restorers and scholars of Velázquez were utterly amazed at what they saw.  Layers of varnish and re-painted areas were masking the true nature of the painting.  These layers were added over a number of years to make the original sketchy study of a man look like a fully finished portrait.  The original painting is a thinly coated, sketchy study for what would become a portrait seen in Velázquez's The Surrender of Breda. 
The one intriguing dispute is on the identity of the sitter.  It's not certain that this is a self-portrait, but given the likeness of other self-portraits of the artist, I can't possibly see how it could be anyone else.

Portrait of a Man (Copy after Velázquez)
oil on canvas
11x14 inches
Diego Velázquez
Portrait of a Man
oil on canvas
27x21.5 inches
c. 1630-35

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