“Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
The Portrait of Juan by Diego Velázquez is a portrait of Velázquez’s enslaved assistant Juan de Pareja, who was owned by Velázquez at the time the painting was completed. Velázquez painted this portrait in Rome, while he was traveling in Italy. It is the earliest known portrait of a Spanish man of African descent.
During Velázquez’s stay in Rome, he displayed this painting as part of a larger exhibition of paintings at the Pantheon in 1650. His contemporaries applauded the art as standing out as a model of realism.
Diego Velázquez, as the court painter to King Philip IV of Spain, was sent to Rome to purchase works of art for the King. Velázquez brought with him Juan de Pareja, who served as an assistant and who was of Moorish descent. De Pareja (1606 – 1670 ) was born into slavery in Spain, but he became an artist in his own right, and he was freed in 1650, close to the time of this painting. His 1661 work, The Calling of Saint Matthew, is on display at the Museo del Prado.
Diego Velázquez was the leading artist in the Spanish court of King Philip IV, and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was a unique artist of the contemporary Baroque period. In the early nineteenth century, Velázquez’s artwork became a model for the realist and impressionist painters. More recently, modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to Velázquez by recreating several of his most famous works.
Juan de Pareja
Juan de Pareja (1606 – 1670) was a Spanish painter, born into slavery in Antequera. He was a member of the household and workshop of painter Diego Velázquez, who freed him in 1650.
Pareja was inherited by Velázquez and became an assistant in his painting after 1631. Juan de Pareja was born into slavery, the son of an enslaved African-descended woman and a white Spanish father.
Events during the time of Velázquez
- 1605 – Don Quixote de la Mancha, the first modern novel, was written.
- 1611 – King James Version of the Bible published in England.
- 1618 – Thirty Years’ War – Protestants revolt against Catholic rule.
- 1619 – The first African slaves are brought to Jamestown.
- 1631 – The Taj Mahal is built in India.
- 1642 – English Civil War.
- 1660 – English Parliament calls for the restoration of the monarchy
- 1664 – The English seize New Amsterdam from the Dutch. The city is renamed New York.
Portrait of Juan de Pareja
- Title: Portrait of Juan de Pareja
- Artist: Diego Velázquez
- Date: 1650
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 81.3 × 69.9 cm (2.6 × 2.2 ft)
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
- Name: Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
- Born: 1599 – Seville, Spain
- Died: 1660 (aged 61) – Madrid, Spain
- Nationality: Spanish
- Movement: Baroque
- Notable works:
Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art
MET European Paintings Collection
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
- “Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)” by Wassily Kandinsky
- “Jeanne Hébuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne
- “Bathers” by Paul Cézanne
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MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection
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MET American Wing Collection
- “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze
- “Portrait of Madame X” by John Singer Sargent
- “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt
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MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection
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MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection
- “Hercules the Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle
- “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin
- “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Antonio Canova
MET Medieval Art Collection
- “The Last Supper” by Ugolino di Nerio
- Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere
- Doorway from the Church of San Nicolò, San Gemini
MET Drawings and Prints Collection
- Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
- “Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth
- “Christ and the Woman of Samaria” by Rembrandt
MET Costume Institute Collection
MET Arms and Armor Collection
MET Photograph Collection
MET Musical Instrument Collection
Explore the MET
- Why is this artwork a model for the realist and impressionist painters?
- Painted before the English seized New Amsterdam and renamed New York, yet does this painting belong more to the spirit of New York or New New Amsterdam?
“I’ll never get tired of hearing your sweet words, but I will get tired of not.”
– Diego Velázquez
Photo Credits: 1) Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons