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Apostle’s Head
Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y
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Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y

Sevilla (Spain), 1599 - Madrid (Spain), 1660

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y See author's file

Apostle’s Head

1619 - 1620. Oil on canvas.
On display elsewhere

Ever since this work was addressed by Velázquez’s bibliography, it has been considered a fragment from a larger painting that was part of an apostolate. That group would have included the apostle Saint Thomas at the Musée d’Orléans and the Saint Paul in Barcelona, whose styles suggest they date from 1619-20, during the first years of the artist’s career. While it has been suggested that these may be among the paintings of apostles seen by Antonio Ponz at the Charterhouse in Seville, where they were considered works by Velázquez, there is no solid argument (as Milicua has pointed out) that would allow us to identify the current paintings with them. The only certainty with regard to their provenance is that the Apostle’s Head was in the Casa-Torres Collection in 1914, the one of Saint Paul came from the Pedro Gil Collection, in Barcelona; and the Saint Thomas entered the Musée d’Orléans in 1835.

The present Apostle’s Head and Saint Paul share multiple similarities, including their size and typology. Both draw on prints by Werner van den Valckert, and their essential elements coincide: they look to one side and are depicted as old men with broad, bare foreheads, long, tangled hair and full, graying beards. Their facial features resemble each other and are executed in a similar manner. Their very tan skin is deeply wrinkled in both cases, denoting the models’ age, and their wide foreheads are equally expressive, as are the decisive noses that organize their faces, along with sunken and energetic eyes. Saint Paul’s face is more angular than that of the Apostle’s Head, which is generally more rounded, though narrower. These variations are sufficient to allow the two to be part of the same series without seeming excessively repetitive.

There are also coincidences in the clothing. Under the head presented, a set of folds suggests closed robes (rather than open, like Saint Paul’s), beneath which a lighter-colored tunic is visible.

The most important argument in favor of Velázquez’s authorship of this canvas is its notable quality and its stylistic relations to other works by him. Painted with great confidence, this work employs a very limited palette, and yet the artist manages to very efficiently transmit a feeling of life and energy -so much so, that despite its being based on a print, it transmits the feeling of a living model. The hair and beard are rendered in a manner similar to other early works by Velázquez, and the interweaving of the grey hairs recalls not only Saint Paul, but also the old man in The Waterseller or the portrait of Francisco Pacheco (P1209). The slightly turned position of the head also resembles this last work, as does the way in which the light shapes the face with a very precise play of lights and shadows that define the irregularities of the skin. The construction of the figure’s volume is also aided by the subtle variations of light appreciable in the background, which serve to situate the head with regard to the surrounding space (Text from Portús, J.: Fábulas de Velázquez. Mitología e Historia Sagrada en el Siglo de Oro, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 307-308).


Technical data

Inventory number
Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y
Apostle’s Head
1619 - 1620
Height: 38 cm; Width: 29 cm
Casa Torres Collection, Madrid, 1914-2006; acquired by the State for the Museo del Prado, 2006.

Bibliography +

Mayer, August, Velázquez: a catalogue raisonne of the pictures and drawings, Faber and Faber, Londres, 1936, pp. nº19.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Velázquez: Complete edition, Londres, 1943, pp. nº12.

Justi, Carl, Velázquez y su siglo, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1953, pp. 818.

Pantorba, Bernardino de, La vida y la obra de Velázquez: estudio biográfico y crítico, Compañía Bibliográfica Española, Madrid, 1955, pp. nº125.

López Rey, José, Velázquez: a catalogue raisonné of his oeuvre, Faber and Faber, Londres, 1963.

Camón Aznar, José, Velázquez, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1964, pp. 223.

Gudiol, José, Velázquez: 1599-1660, historia de su vida, catálogo de su obra, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1973.

Brown, Jonathan, Velázquez: pintor y cortesano, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 282.

Velázquez, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1990, pp. 102-103.

Delenda, Odile, Velazquez. Peintre Religieux, Editions du CerfTricorne, Geneve, 1993, pp. 62.

Gállego, Julián, Velazquez en Sevilla, Diputacion Provincial de Sevilla, Sevilla, 1994, pp. 115.

López-Rey, José, Velázquez. Catalogue Raisonné, París, 1996, pp. nº15.

Velazquez, Leonardo Arte, Milano, 2001, pp. 154-156.

De Herrera a Velázquez: el primer naturalismo en Sevilla, Fundación Focus-AbengoaBilboko Arte Eder Museoa =M, Sevilla, 2005.

Fábulas de Velázquez. Mitología e Historia Sagrada en el Siglo de Oro / edición a cargo de Javier Portús Pérez, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, pp. 307.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Memoria de Actividades 2006, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 2007, pp. 68-69.

Cruz Valdovinos, José Manuel, Velázquez: vida y obra de un pintor cortesano, Caja Inmaculada, 2011, pp. 51.

López-Rey, José The Wildenstein Institute, 'Diego Velázquez. St Paul? or Head of an Apostle' En: Velázquez. The complete works, Taschen, Colonia, 2014, pp. 335 n.12.

Kientz, G.K, 'D.Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez. Portrait de l'Infant Baltasar Carlos' En:, Velázquez, Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais: Louvre..., Paris, 2015, pp. 142 n.25.

Marques, Virginia, 'Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez. Cabeza de apóstol' En:, Pacheco. Teórico, artista y maestro (1564-1644)., Junta de Andalucía,, Sevilla, 2016, pp. 240-241 n.50.

López-Rey, José, Velázquez: la obra completa, Taschen, 2020, pp. 335 nº 12.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2744.

Exhibitions +

Velázquez, le Saint Thomas restauré
05.06.2021 - 14.11.2021

Balenciaga y la pintura española
18.06.2019 - 22.09.2019

El gran silencio
08.10.2015 - 07.02.2016

25.03.2015 - 13.07.2015

Velázquez’s Fables. Mythology and Sacred History in the Golden Age
20.11.2007 - 24.02.2008

Location +

Sevilla - Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Deposit)

Update date: 30-12-2021 | Registry created on 06-10-2015

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