View Full Version : Discussion - January 2005 MOM "Velazquez and Baroque Painting"

12-04-2004, 02:35 AM
Hello everyone - time to start the discussion for the January MOM - Velazquez!!!! And the concepts, techniques and palettes of Baroque painters.

Choices for January are the following Paintings:

"The Waterseller of Seville"

"The Needlewoman"

Velazquez was Spains greatest achievement in Baroque Painting.

In the Baroque period the formal elements that usually are dominant in the paintings are:

Space - deep space, zig-zag movement

Light - strong contrast between light and dark, usually strong light source

Color - Mostly earth tones but with great variety; in Rubens especially lots of reds

Form - classical/renaissance continues in terms of preferred forms

Open forms - in 2-D forms, lots of figural interaction

Time - single dramatic moment

Media - lots of oil paintings, dramatic ways of handling the medium

Subjects - all kinds, classical, religious, still-life, portraits.

Mostly, painters built and expanded on the naturalistic tradition reestablished during the renaissance. Color was manipulated for its emotional aspects, ranging from calm tones to warm shimmering colors with a heightened sense of drama. Sometimes this was achieved through chiaroscuro. Baroque painting is often referred to as "The Golden Age" in painting. Italian influence was largely rejected in favor of mannerist formulas in a noble and severe style, proufoundly realistic with a dominance of a pictorial view over a tactile values. Interest in the reproduction of subjects encouraged virtuosity. Tonal values became dominant, rather than color choice. "Light" became a whole new meaning - lending to the rationalization that light in a painting was a transcendential function. Spacial values were more subtle; gradation in tones became more important, and observation became so vastly important that no other style has been able to equal it in retrospect.

Paintings emerged with a splendid harmony of tones and colors. The perfect balance between graphic and pictorial, between "representation of detail and a suggestion of the imperfections of human vision."

Palettes were of earthly tones. Mainly earthly browns, reds and yellows and even blacks. Typical Baroque palettes contained the following:

Azurite = or substitute prussian blue
Charcoal black = or substitute Lamp Black
Green Earth (Terre Verde)
Ivory Black
Lead-Tin Yellow = or substitute Naples Yellow
Madder Lake
Red Ocher
Smalt = or substitute Cobalt Blue (this was made by crushing cobalt glass into particles, mixed with medium, and most often used to speed drying)
Natural Ultramarine
White lead
Verdigris = veridian
Weld - here I'm thinking Cad Yellow, possibly of medium warmth
Yellow Ochre

Here is a really good read for techno's on an "Analysis of earthly pigments in grounds of Baroque Paintings: (Einion might actually appreciate this read, :D ) . At one time, I wouldn't have found this interesting, but the further I get in "learning" it does seem to make some sense to me and is quite informative !


also, a good compositional analysis on "Las Meninas" which is quite confusing to me and I'm hoping some might shed some kind of "light" on me :p


Another link with a lot of background information on Velazquez and Baroque painting:


We're at all levels here, and I'm not trying to discourage anyone - but trying with great effort for us all to come together and have an educational discussion on the Baroque period and Velazquez, so that we all have something to gain from the experience.


12-04-2004, 04:59 AM

Really good post! Thanks for the research and links.

I'm reading the PDF, and regarding the statement :

"Possibly important are the traces of smectite in some grounds; the presence and technological importance of these in grounds remains puzzling."

I can only make a guess, that perhaps these artists sketched the painting with the clay, like a red chalk drawing.


12-04-2004, 11:09 AM
Hi Richard ! I did a bit of further research of smectite and found that it was predominatly present in grounds during the Baroque period. Here's an excerpt from a webpage I found with some information on Bierstadt's paintings, and the examination of the grounds used. He was known for experimenting with graphite grounds, which didn't quite work out for a "sound" painting ground, but there is reference to smectite below, which is a clay, and I can only assume that the smectite present in the pdf analysis is due to an experimentation during that time of earth clays in grounds of Baroque paintings. I believe the pdf is saying that yes, it is present, but what was the technological advantage of using it?

"In conclusion, ground samples from the five Bierstadt paintings examined were composed of a mixture of graphite, clay, and iron oxides. The clay, for at least The Last of the Buffalo and Rocky Mountain Sheep, was demonstrated to be most closely allied to montmorillonite, a member of the smectite group of clays. For the remaining paintings, a more specific identity of the clay component was not assigned. It should be noted that Deer et al. (1966) describe smectite clays as being useful in the formulation of paints, paper, rubber, ceramics, and a variety of other materials."

Interesting stuff - even for a novice :)

What I really love about this period in painting is the depth Baroque artists achieved in their paintings, along with the strong emphasis on Lights and Darks. Very dramatic results in these works !


12-04-2004, 11:34 AM
Velazquez was known to make adjustments in his painting as he went along, and frequently cleaned his brush on the canvas, later covering it up with final layers of paint. Here's a nice example of that:


Over time, the top layer has become transparent, revealing underneath the smaller collar that he initially painted.

What I really love about this painting, is the simple face emerging from the background:


But check this out ;) a bit of further analysis, and a bit of lightening up reveals even more emerging from the darkness from within:



Carey Griffel
12-04-2004, 12:48 PM
Whoa!! This discussion already?? Awesome! Thanks, Tina! This info will be sooo invaluable!!

I don't have time to read through this all at the moment, but a week ago, I was able to visit the National Gallery of Art (sooo cool!) and, to my surprise, there was the second choice for our January MOM! My husband wondered why I stared so hard and long at this particular painting (The Needlewoman) because it didn't seem any more special than the other paintings.

I'd like to share some thoughts on seeing this painting in real life, but I'm just not sure what I could say, so I'll do my best :cool: ...I wouldn't say that his layers were exactly thin, but, yes, you could see through a lot of them and there's a definite brown underpainting/toning going on. The highlights on her chest are definitely thicker than surrounding areas. I'd say that the white cloth is definitely painted *rather* thinly over brown. The background and the lower left seem quite thin and are a brown, yes, but with a measure of gray. I couldn't quite tell if the gray was a lower layer, an upper layer, or mixed into the brown.

There's not a *lot* of brushwork evident, but it's definitely there, most notably in the hand on our left, which was actually just suggested with a few brushstrokes (it's amazing how detailed the hand looks in this photo and from a few feet away from the painting itself).

Her face is quite smooth and blended, actually, except perhaps where the highlights are. I'd say the same about the dress. It's terribly hard to see in the photo and I'm afraid that, already, my memory is receeding from me.

What a treat it was to see "real" paintings in person. I'm still in awe of it. Going through the gallery and shortly thereafter, I truly felt like I was seeing the world as it really is, rather than just what I see day in and day out. If anyone else has an opportunity to go there, I'd highly recommend it...they currently have an exhibition of Gerard Ter Borch's work (I think I spelled his name right!)--I'd never even heard of him, but, oh! did I ever love his paintings! They were, in a word, incredible.

If I can be of any further assistance, let me know, like I said, I'm just not sure what I should be describing. :cool: I hope that my few rememberances are of help to someone!

Oh, and if you go to the gallery, be sure to check out the original starship Enterprise across the way in the basement of the Air and Space museum. :p :D ;) :cool: And maybe the Hope diamond next door...one woman's comment will stay with me forever, "It's blue, so it must be flawed"--definitely a jealous wife whose husband doesn't buy her fancy jewlery! :p


12-04-2004, 12:50 PM
Question :

In something I'm currently working on, I experimented with the background.
1) glazed charcoal sketch (sketch included clay, chalk, and ochre pigment)
2) dry-brushed with fan brush (cleaning the paint from fan brushes only)
3) dry-brushed with fan brush (cleaning the turp from fan brushes only)
4) glazed entire painting
5) applied transparent film of paint with fan brush to darken background

There are unusual patterns in his backgrounds that seem to rely on anomoly. Do you think his approach is similar? Or, what could I do to shortcut the process but still get the same effect?


Carey Griffel
12-04-2004, 01:04 PM
Interesting thought, Richard...it certainly seems very similar and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if his technique was not far off your "experiment".

It could be that he just scrubbed on paint, rubbing through to a previous layer with a stiff brush?

In the lower left corner of the Needlewoman (the only part that was eye level to me until my husband boosted me up for a second :rolleyes: :p ), I honestly could not tell how he built up his layers there. It definitely has that "anomolous" look...however, I have to say that it seemed to be less of a "glaze" (ie, that covers the entire surface) and more like either a partially uncovered previous layer or that he worked in some gray paint into the wet or partially wet brown layer...? :confused: Really not sure.

Three or four possibilites, at any rate...don'tcha wish that these masters had left detailed notes?? :p


12-04-2004, 01:24 PM
(the only part that was eye level to me until my husband boosted me up for a second)

Not tall? Or because they have the paintings en' mode . . hang em' high?

I feel a little dense, but I don't know what that lower-left thing is in Needlewoman. It looks like a stone pillow.

It could be that he just scrubbed on paint, rubbing through to a previous layer with a stiff brush?

Plausible. But I'm pretty aggressive anyway, and I'd probably dig right down to the bottom -- I do it all the time accidently. But I once experimented with a brillo pad, and that had an interesting texture. And a more controllable scrape.

I'll re-read your posts (we overlapped). But if you remember any more textures, Please post em'. Thanks.

Carey Griffel
12-04-2004, 01:42 PM
Not tall? Or because they have the paintings en' mode . . hang em' high?

I feel a little dense, but I don't know what that lower-left thing is in Needlewoman. It looks like a stone pillow.

LOL, both. I was frustrated because I could see so little of the paintings *truly" up close...the lower edge of the paintings were, generally speaking, right at my eye level...and when so many of them were rather large, well, yeah, I couldn't see them nearly as much as I wanted to. When I did get close enough to them (though still far enough away that the roaming space Nazis wouldn't come down on me), the upper portions of the paintings had glare from the lights...ooh, why do they DO that?? There has to be a better way they could have hung them...

At any rate, Richard, I haven't the slightest clue what that thing on the bottom is, either, really. I'm thinking a table, though the perspective seems awfully weird.


12-04-2004, 01:44 PM
Hi Carey - there's so much that can be discussed here on Baroque painting methods, and Velasquez, I thought we had better get a bit of a start on it :) . What an opportunity, to see the original !!! And the BLUE DIAMOND !!! Dumb lady - doesn't know her jewelry does she? :p My father is a jeweler !!

I do know that the background is toned, with an earth brown. He mixed linseed into his oils for a very "fluid" paint, and then the highlights were painted on much thicker.

I found it interesting too that in this painting, it looks like the same boy as in the Waterseller ... or at least a stark resemblance .... don't you think so?


Richard, I believe on the background there isn't a variation of colors, one flat coat, with the shadows worked in, but I could be wrong :)

And he preferred soft brushes as opposed to bristles, which is evident in the blending work he did.


12-06-2004, 04:59 PM
Hi All, :wave:

I can't believe this discussion has started already ! So hard to imagine its only a few weeks to 2005. This month's will be very interesting to paint. I think I am going for The Needlewoman first, and see how the time goes. I really want to push myself in 2005.

This is a very interesting period, and isn't it wonderful to learn more about it ? Thanks for your research Tina. I hope to do some extensive reading before starting in January.

Carey and Richard - I think that thingy is a cushion - not sure though. My grandmother did a lot of needlework, and always sat with a cushion on her lap. She said it eased her hands and arms as she was working!

12-06-2004, 05:02 PM
Where is Jaysen ??????????? :confused: :confused: Haven't seen anything of him in a while, and he needs to be here for this.

12-11-2004, 03:00 AM
Hi, I've just found a way to get onto the internet, but can only be done at certain times and is very slow. Hopefully, I'll have a good connection when I go to Virginia next month. I've been meaning to study velazquez for a while now (since August), but found Hals and Sargent so intriguing that I never got around to it. He is a very interesting artist. He followed the "less is more" concept in some paintings, but in others seemed to jam as much detail and embellishment as he could. Can I say that the man loved deep shadows? And he also seemed to experiment quite a bit with composition, perspective, and subjects. One other thing I would say about Velazquez and this means a lot to me: Sargent saw him as his greatist influence. He encouraged his advanced students to study V. He asked those to first study Hals before attempting Velazquez. I think there's many reasons for this, but the first is that Velazquez was a master of detailed shadow, realistic and very subtle transitions of tone and value. So, what he wanted from his students was to learn Hals' free brush strokes and quick sense of value relations. Once they had learned these things, he would then encourage them to learn the sublety of Velazquez.

For example, compare Hals' Verdonck with Velazquez's Baccus. Hals portrayed simple, but powerful emotions and expressions in his subjects such as worry, anger, stupor. (I realize he had more complex paintings such as "The laughing cavalier".) Velazquez showed much more complex things such as greed, lust, cunning, piety, hautere, etc.

So, do I think this will be a hard assignment? Of course, look at that Jar, geeze it's like a photo.

But, am I excited to try? OF COURSE! Chomping at the bit, as usual. Only problem is I'm heading off to a 6 month school Jan-Jun and will probably not be able to do any painting. We'll see.

12-11-2004, 10:59 AM
Can I say that the man loved deep shadows?

Absolutely, and strong light. A master at chiaroscuro. I didn't know that Sargent was a great fan of Velazquez and pushed his students to study him - that's interesting to know, but is reflective of some of his work - like the venetian interior - strong light dark shadows.

Thanks squib!! There are many artists from the baroque period to study. Some of the most beautiful paintings in the world emerged from this era!!!


12-13-2004, 03:44 PM
My nearest Museum - the Ashmolean (http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/) in Oxford - is having a talk on Baroque Art next Tuesday lunchtime ! So I will be there. They have regular talks on all sorts of subjects. I have been to quite a few. While I'm there I'll have a good look at the Baroque Art on display. I'm really looking forward to this, and it will be a great preparation for the MOM - just in time !! :D

12-13-2004, 04:03 PM
Hi Tina :wave:

Setting a good precedent for our MOMs, Sargent himself did copies of Velazquez , for example "Don Antonio":

Velazquez left, Sargent right



12-13-2004, 04:23 PM
Either that's a really really big dog, or the Don stood just above the belt buckle.

12-13-2004, 04:27 PM
The latter. His proportions suggest pituitary dwarfism, rather than achondroplasia.


12-13-2004, 04:50 PM
Quite right Dave. This painting is described as - The dwarf " Don Antonio el Ingles". Also, I discovered - "It was customary at the courts of Europe during the seventeenth century for monarchs to keep dwarfs. Velázquez's sympathy for the fools and dwarfs of the Spanish court is obvious: in the pathos and humane understanding demonstrated by the single portraits with which he (and he alone) paid tribute to them.

Examples - all dwarfs

A particularly impressive portrait is Velázquez's painting of the dwarf Don Diego de Acedo, alias El Primo (The Cousin), probably commissioned by the court and executed at Fraga in about 1644. (The dwarf was called El Primo because he boasted of being the relative of Velázquez.)

Like the midget Sebastian de Morra, who served in the retinue of the Infante Don Fernando and Prince Baltasar Carlos, El Primo is shown sitting, and is viewed slightly from below. The effect of presenting them from this dignified aspect is to raise their status in the eyes of the spectator. El Primo is portrayed leafing through the pages of an enormous tome. His small size makes the books surrounding him appear even more gigantic than they are. His occupation here is undoubtedly a reference to his administrative duties at the court. At the same time, it is probably an example of humanist satirical jest, which would often decry the senseless writing and reading of books as a contemptible vice. Contemporary spectators would never have accepted that a dwarf knew how to use the attributes of a scholar; the artist thus seems to be using an apparently grotesque discrepancy to poke fun at the pseudo-scholars of his day.

The Dwarf Francisco Lezcano, Called "El Nino de Vallecas"

Dwarfs, fools and jesters were present in large numbers at the Court of Philip IV. They were maintained by the King according to a tradition extending back well into the Middle Ages. The tradition was motivated by charity, but many 'fools' came to be appreciated for their wit, arousing great affection and sometimes achieving great fame. Because they were not taken seriously, they were licenced to parody or flout the etiquette with which courtiers and royalty had to conform, which seems to have been especially appreciated at the rigid Court of Philip IV.

Velázquez has used a variety of subtle devices in portraying them: particularly interesting is the way the light flickers uncertainly over Calabacillas' grimace, suggesting his poor vision. Here Velázquez anticipates, or may have influenced, Goya's techique of 160 years later.

The Dwarf Don Juan Calabazas, called Calabacillas

Velázquez painted the likenesses of some of the dwarfs of the Spanish court who were, in the words of Carl Justi, 'loved and treated as dogs'. These unfortunate cripples, sometimes weak-minded but sometimes wise, often attached themselves to the courts in the Middle Ages and later; there they found shelter in return for their services as court jesters, and they had to endure the rude remarks and practical jokes of the courtiers. Their feelings as human beings were generally ignored, but the portrait of the dwarf Sebastiano de Morra (it was a form of mockery to give the dwarfs such grandiose names) is one of the most penetrating character studies ever made by the master.

Although the dwarf Don Sebastián de Morra is portrayed in full figure, he is not standing in a self-confident pose or elegantly seated on a chair, but is sitting on the bare earth with his feet stretched out in front of him. This low position not only shows up the sumptuous clothing for the clownish apparel it is, but also heightens the intended effect: the court fool is at the mercy of the spectator. Such pictorial devices reveal the voyeurism with which the royal rulers made these people the objects of their shameless whimsy, caprice and power. At the same time, however, the artist is also making another statement: this court fool is giving nothing away, neither a smile, nor any buffoonery. Immobile, scrutinizing and impenetrable, his dark eyes are fixed on the spectator, who somehow feels caught out by such a gaze and turns away.

Velázquez's greatest achievement as a portrait painter was certainly his highly pictorial portrait of Pope Innocent X, executed during his second visit to Rome; but already in this picture of the dwarf, especially in the expression of the eyes, there is evidence of the great gifts with which this artist was endowed.

The Dwarf Sebastian de Morra

He seems to have been fascinated with dwarfism.

All of the above info was found at the bottom of this page (http://www.geocities.com/karen_larsdatter/foolwear.htm)

12-13-2004, 05:12 PM
He seems to have been fascinated with dwarfism.
As a little ;) aside: http://www.dwarfism.org/medical/types.php


12-15-2004, 12:32 PM
Good heavens Dave ! I can honestly say I only recognise about 6 of these types. How embarrasing for someone who has been in the medical profession all of her working life. :o :o

05-29-2005, 03:58 PM
Did no one paint a Valasquez copy?
I thought the waterseller is the best looking of this year's

05-29-2005, 04:45 PM
Did no one paint a Valasquez copy?
I thought the waterseller is the best looking of this year's

Yes - quite a few of us had a go - the actual thread is here:


There's no time limit on joining in, if you still want to :)