Characteristics of Diego Velazquez's Paintings

by Bethany Seeley
Velazquez painted

Velazquez painted "Christ in the House of Martha and Mary" in 1618. Images

Art historians refer to the period from the end of the 16th century to the end of the 18th century as the Baroque period. Diego Velazquez is one of the most famous painters of the Baroque period. Some of his most famous paintings are "Christ on the Cross," "Las Maninas," "Mars, God of War" and "The Waterseller of Seville."

Velazquez's Early Influences

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez was a Spanish painter who lived from 1599 to 1660. He was born to Jewish parents who were from the aristocratic class. He studied with the painters Francisco de Herrera and Francisco Pacheco. He traveled extensively throughout Spain and Italy, where he was able to see the works of other master painters and make himself known among the royal class. Ultimately, he became the court painter of King Philip IV of Spain. He painted portraits of the Spanish royal family and other famous Europeans. He also painted ordinary people and scenes from the Bible and from classical mythology.


Bodegone is a style of painting which was popular during Velazquez's time, and which he used often. A bodegone consists of a scene composed of ordinary people doing ordinary things, such as selling food, cooking and eating. What makes a bodegone different from a still life is that there were often elements in the painting that were symbolic of religious or moral themes. For example, the 1618 painting "Old Woman Frying Eggs" depicts a young boy and an old woman, who represent the fleeting nature of life, and eggs, which were a common symbol of the possibility of life after death.

Colors and Techniques

Velazquez often painted dark backgrounds with bright, vibrantly colored subjects in the foreground. There is usually a great deal of contrast between darkness and shadow in his paintings. They were very realistic, and he accurately painted his subjects in relation to their settings and the objects around them. He rarely used perspective in his work. Some art historians believe that he was not as skilled in perspective painting as he was in painting figures at close range. Velazquez typically painted in oil on canvas, and he rarely signed his work.

Influence on Other Artists

Diego Velazquez's paintings influenced many painters who came after him. Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon all used Velazquez's paintings as inspirations and models for some of their own work.

Photo Credits

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