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Diego Velázquez | Italian period

In 1629, Spanish painter Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660) was given permission to spend a year and a half in Italy.
Though this first visit is recognized as a crucial chapter in the development of his style - and in the history of Spanish Royal Patronage, since Philip IV sponsored his trip - few details and specifics are known of what the painter saw, whom he met, how he was perceived and what innovations he hoped to introduce into his painting.
He traveled to Venice, Ferrara, Cento, Loreto, Bologna, and Rome.

In 1630, he visited Naples to paint the portrait of Maria Anna of Spain, and there he probably met Ribera.
The major works from his first Italian period are Joseph's Bloody Coat brought to Jacob (1629–30) and Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan (1630), both of which reveal his ambition to rival the Italians as a history painter in the grand manner.
The two compositions of several nearly life-sized figures have similar dimensions, and may have been conceived as pendants - the biblical scene depicting a deception, and the mythological scene depicting the revelation of a deception.

As he had done in The Triumph of Bacchus, Velázquez presented his characters as contemporary people whose gestures and facial expressions were those of everyday life.
Following the example of Bolognese painters such as Guido Reni, Velázquez painted Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan on canvas prepared with a light gray ground rather than the dark reddish ground of all his earlier works.
The change resulted in a greater luminosity than he had previously achieved, and he made the use of light-gray grounds his regular practice.

Second visit to Italy

When he set out in 1649, he was accompanied by his assistant Juan de Pareja who at this point in time was a slave and who had been trained in painting by Velázquez.
Velázquez sailed from Málaga, landed at Genoa, and proceeded from Milan to Venice, buying paintings of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese as he went.
At Modena he was received with much favor by the duke, and here he painted the portrait of the duke at the Modena gallery and two portraits that now adorn the Dresden gallery, for these paintings came from the Modena sale of 1746.
Those works presage the advent of the painter's third and latest manner, a noble example of which is the great portrait of Pope Innocent X in the Doria Pamphilj Gallery in Rome, where Velázquez now proceeded.

There he was received with marked favor by the Pope, who presented him with a medal and golden chain.
Velázquez took a copy of the portrait - which Sir Joshua Reynolds thought was the finest picture in Rome - with him to Spain.
Several copies of it exist in different galleries, some of them possibly studies for the original or replicas painted for Philip.

Velázquez, in this work, had now reached the manera abreviada, a term coined by contemporary Spaniards for this bolder, sharper style.
The portrait shows such ruthlessness in Innocent's expression that some in the Vatican feared that it would be seen unfavorably by the Pope; in fact Innocent was pleased with the work, and hung it in his official visitor's waiting room.

In 1650 in Rome Velázquez also painted a portrait of Juan de Pareja, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, USA.
This portrait procured his election into the Accademia di San Luca.

Purportedly Velázquez created this portrait as a warm-up of his skills before his portrait of the Pope.
It captures in great detail Pareja's countenance and his somewhat worn and patched clothing with an economic use of brushwork.
In November 1650, Juan de Pareja was freed from slavery by Velázquez.

To this period also belong two small landscape paintings both titled View of the Garden of the Villa Medici.
As landscapes apparently painted directly from nature, they were exceptional for their time, and reveal Velázquez's close study of light at different times of day.
As part of his mission to procure decorations for the Room of Mirrors at the Royal Alcazar of Madrid, Velázquez commissioned Matteo Bonuccelli to cast twelve bronze copies of the Medici lions.

The copies are now in the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Museo del Prado.
During his time in Rome, Velázquez fathered a natural son, Antonio, whom he is not known ever to have seen.