Velazquez’s Juan Martinez Montanes (1636)

This portrait by Velazquez of the sculptor, Juan Martinez Montanes, must always have confused viewers. The trouble is that while the portrait looks finished, the head that Montanes is sculpting looks unfinished, merely sketched in. On the other hand, if you know that the sculptor is an alter ego of Velazquez, as users of this site do, then Montanes as Velazquez is in the act of drawing on the very canvas we are looking at and the painting is finished. As in hundreds of masterpieces from before Michelangelo's Vatican Pieta to Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe and beyond, the subject and the scene in the studio have been combined. Velazquez's wit though, in making the canvas "the canvas" is particularly striking.

Captions for image(s) above:

Velazquez, The Sculptor Montanes (1636)

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 23 Nov 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.