Doña Antonia de Ipeñarrieta y Galdós and her Son, don LuisCa. 1632. Oil on canvas, 215 x 110 cm.
Of the people with whom Velázquez must have had contact on a daily basis at the palace, many would have been high functionaries or skilled servants of the court. His own social aspirations included becoming a member of that professional group, which he eventually joined, and he made portraits of some of them, including two now at the Museo del Prado: Diego del Corral (P01195) and his wife, Antonia Ipeñarrieta (shown here). Del Corral was Antonia´s second husband, following their marriage in 1627. Her first had been García Pérez Araciel. She died in 1635. Within the palace hierarchy, she was one of prince Baltasar Carlos´s servents. There has been some doubt about the identity of the child in this portrait. Antonia worked for the prince, and as was normal among palace servants, she was not allowed to take him by the hand. That might indicate that this is actually a portrait of Baltasar Carlos, but in fact, the registration of the chattels of the couple´s two children in 1688 indicates that the sitter is Luis, one of the two siblings bearing their name. Even if we did not know the identity of these two, the information that Velázquez includes in their portraits would be sufficient to indicate their social standing with some precision. Nothing is gratuitous in this sort of portraiture, as every element bears information, not so much about the sitter´s individual personality, as about their rank. As a member of a society as hierarchical as the Spanish one, with a very codified system of privileges, it was natural that clear references to those privileges would be included as absolute symbols of his position in the social order. The fact that Antonia rests her left hand on a chair is neither irrelevant nor a simple matter of painterly composition; it is a clear allusion to her right to sit down. The boy carries a bell, a customary amulet in that period for young children´s protection. This is a portrait of considerable quality and it reveals the artist´s skill at extracting a maximum of possibilities from a very limited set of chromatic and compositional resources. The figure is simple and very well placed in an indeterminate space, thanks to his body´s conical structure. It is accompanied by essential rhetorical elements whose capacity to communicate efficiently is based on the contrast between the sober setting and the points of light and expression established by the faces and hands (Text from Portús, J.: Velázquez. Guía, Museo del Prado, 1999, pp. 104-106).