Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bite 92: Diego Velázquez - Philip IV as a Hunter, c. 1636

Philip IV as a Hunter, c. 1636, oil on canvas, 189 x 124 cm, Prado

Van Dyck’s almost self-conscious display of royal grandeur sits in stark contrast to Velázquez open and deceptively simple composition Philip IV as a Hunter, painted for the Torre de la Parada. Historian Jonathan Brown sees Van Dyck’s portraiture as essentially “programmatic” while Velázquez portrait is “almost off-handed… refusing to insist on the royal majesty.” 

The entire scene around Charles, as well as his pose and elbow, clearly keeps the viewer at bay. Philip on the other hand relies only on his gun and protective dog. His self-possession is decidedly more convincing than Charles’ and, although the landscape, inspired by the area near Pardo, to the North of Madrid, certainly indicates his dominion as a source of his power, its representation by Velázquez is far less symbolically loaded, the canopy of trees, and stoic canine, inherently referencing his power without the need to bow literally. 

Philip looks down at the viewer with a relaxed stance and hand on hip, the dynamic composition completed with the use of a long firearm extending diagonally from outside the frame on the left to the bottom right corner. As with many of his portraits of Philip IV, Velázquez has successfully established a careful balance between solidity and ease. 

Fernando Checa, Velázquez: The Complete Paintings, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 2008 
Jonathan Brown, ‘Velázquez, Rubens and Van Dyck’ (1999) in Collected Writings on Velázquez 
FernandoCheca, Velázquez: The Complete Paintings