Velázquez was born in Seville on June 6, 1599, the oldest of six children; both his parents were from the minor nobility. Between 1611 and 1617 the young Velázquez worked as an apprentice to Francisco Pacheco, a Sevillian Mannerist painter who became Velázquez's father-in-law. During his student years Velázquez absorbed the most popular contemporaneous styles of painting, derived, in part, from both Flemish and Italian realism.
Many of his earliest paintings show a strong naturalist bias, as does The Meal, which may have been his first work as an independent master after passing the examination of the Guild of Saint Luke. This painting belongs to the first of three categoriesthe bodegón, or kitchen piece, along with portraits and religious scenesinto which his youthful works, executed between about 1617 and 1623, may be placed. In his kitchen pieces, a few figures are combined with studied still-life objects, as in Water Seller of Seville. The masterly effects of light and shadow, as well as the direct observation of nature, make inevitable a comparison with the work of the Italian painter Caravaggio. Velázquez's religious paintings, images of simple piety, portray models drawn from the streets of Seville, as Pacheco states in his biography of Velázquez. In Adoration of the Magi, for example, the artist painted his own family in the guise of biblical figures, including a self-portrait as well.
Velázquez was also well acquainted with members of the intellectual circles of Seville. Pacheco was the director of an informal humanist academy; at its meetings the young artist was introduced to such people as the great poet Luis de Góngora y Argote, whose portrait he executed in 1622. Such contact was important for Velázquez's later work on mythological and classical subjects.
In 1622 Velázquez made his first trip to... [continues]
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