The Yale University Art Gallery hosted a lecture on Sunday highlighting new scholarship on the work of Spanish Golden Age painter Diego Velázquez.
At the talk, Salvador Salort-Pons, president, director and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts, discussed the historical and artistic context surrounding Velázquez’s development as a painter, including analysis of the social and urban background of the artist’s home city of Sevilla. Additionally, Salort-Pons explored new scholarly hypotheses regarding paintings that have been recently attributed to — or are thought to have been created by the hand of — Velázquez. In his lecture, he noted that it is important to think creatively about art historical scholarship in order to further one’s knowledge of the subject.
“By having imagination, creative thinking and new hypotheses, we will at least have a chance to advance knowledge,” Salort-Pons said.
Salort-Pons drew links between the work of Velázquez and the 16th-century intellectual and painterly tradition epitomized by his teacher, Francisco Pacheco, who was a master of the period’s canonical styles. Despite his background working in the studio of a more traditional painter, Velázquez eventually became a pioneer of more modern techniques.
In his lecture, Salort-Pons suggested that such pioneering tendencies may have had their roots in Velázquez’s inspiration by other painters in addition to Pacheco, one of the new theories that has recently emerged in scholarship relating to Velázquez’s work.
For example, Salort-Pons mentioned the work of Luis Tristán, Spanish painter, who worked for a period in the studio of El Greco. Salort-Pons added that several of Tristán’s formal techniques may have inspired Velázquez.
“Tristán inspired young Velázquez,” he explained. “What [Velázquez] saw as inspirational was the dramatic use of light and a modulated technique that gave a sense of three dimensions.”
Salort-Pons added that Velázquez started to gradually adopt a style similar to Tristán’s and to distance himself from the formal strategies he had learned under Pacheco.
In his lecture, Salort-Pons also highlighted the more modernistic elements of Velázquez’s technique, noting in particular the paintings’ ambitious interpretations of reality.
Adelaide Goodyear ’17, who attended the event, said she found Salort-Pons’ technique of comparative analysis — in which he discussed the paintings of Velázquez in relation to those of other painters from the same era — particularly effective in aiding her comprehension of the works. Goodyear added that she thought providing context of the city of Sevilla gave the talk an additional dimension that helped her understand the artist’s paintings in a new way.