When is a Velázquez a Velázquez?

The Handmaidens of the Infanta Margharita in the Household of Philip IV, known as 'Las meniñas', thought to be by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo, after Diego Velázquez, at Kingston Lacy, Dorset. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Handmaidens of the Infanta Margharita in the Household of Philip IV, known as ‘Las meninas’, thought to be by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo, after Diego Velázquez, at Kingston Lacy, Dorset. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Reattributions of paintings by or in the style of well-known masters tend to cause a stir, as we saw in the case of the self-portrait attributed to Rembrandt at Buckland Abbey. It is no different with the recent claim that the version of Las meninas in the collection at Kingston Lacy is by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) himself, rather than by his son-in-law Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (1612/16-67).

The Handmaidens of the Infanta Margharita in the Household of Philip IV, known as 'Las meniñas', by Diego Velázquez, at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Museo Nacional del Prado

The Handmaidens of the Infanta Margharita in the Household of Philip IV, known as ‘Las meninas’, by Diego Velázquez, at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Museo Nacional del Prado

The prime version of this famously enigmatic painting hangs in the Prado in Madrid. The museum has put on an important Velázquez exhibition which includes both the Prado and the Kingston Lacy Las meninas.

Prince Balthasar Carlos as a hunter, by Diego Velázquez, at Ickworth, Suffolk. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Prince Balthasar Carlos as a hunter, by Diego Velázquez, at Ickworth, Suffolk. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

However, as reported in The Guardian newspaper and elsewhere, art historian Dr Matías Díaz Padrón has just given a lecture at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes in Madrid in which he reattributes the Kingston Lacy version to the master himself. He suggests that it is a first draft or sketch for the Prado version, and that the colours in both pictures are typical of the artist.

Cardinal Camillo Massimi, by Diego Velázquez, at Kingston Lacy. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Cardinal Camillo Massimi, by Diego Velázquez, at Kingston Lacy. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

The Kingston Lacy meninas was thought to be an original Velázquez in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and its status was only changed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was in the collection of Gaspar de Haro, 7th Marquess of Carpio and 2nd Duke of Montoro (1629-87, who also owned the picture by Velázquez now known as the Rokeby Venus) and was purchased and brought to Kingston Lacy by William Bankes (1786-1855).

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, where the version of Las meniñas normally hangs. ©National Trust Images/Richard Pink

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, where the version of Las meniñas normally hangs. ©National Trust Images/Richard Pink

However, the curator of the Prado show, Javier Portús, is not convinced, and more research will be needed to support this new claim. But being able seeing the two paintings in close proximity is a good start.

8 Responses to “When is a Velázquez a Velázquez?”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Shades of the ongoing Caravaggio argument we have here in Loches. I wrote about them here

  2. xudros Says:

    Are Las Meninas don´t Las Meniñas

  3. columnist Says:

    A question of attribution indeed. I too am having a tussle about a watercolour, not on the scale of Velazquez, and I await the deliberations of the experts in London. Aprops nothing really, have you ever seen “A Question of Attribution”? It’s a brilliant movie about (Sir) Anthony Blunt, the Surveyor of the King’s (and later Queen’s) Pictures, stripped of his knighthood following the disclosures of his spy activities.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Xudros, thank you, I have corrected that :)

    Columnist, no, must try to see it, and I still haven’t read the Blunt biography that came out a number of years ago.

  5. deana Says:

    I have never heard of the Kingston Lacy house, what a complete delight both for it’s architecture and collections. Reminds me of Ashdown a bit. It is now on my visit list for sure.

    As for copies, I was just thinking about the style of having decent period copies that I saw at Ham House with their faux-Titians. How long did that fashion for copies last??

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Deana, yes it is a very beautiful place, and the William Bankes whose presence is still felt there today had a fascinating biography – see my other posts in the ‘Kingston Lacy’ category.

  7. carldeacon Says:

    Detective De Bruijn strikes again!

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    :) But the jury is still out…

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