Don Diego del Corral y ArellanoCa. 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, shown here, and his wife, Antonia Ipeñarrieta (P01196). Del Corral was born in Silos in 1570 and died in Madrid in May 1632 after holding important posts in the field of jurisprudence: he was a judge at the Council of Castile and a senior professor in Salamanca and he took part in some polemical trials, including the one that sent don Ramón Calderón to the gallows. In 1627 he married Antonia de Ipeñarrieta. 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. For example, the Cross of Saint James that don Diego wears on his chest reveals his noble origins, and both the buffet and his toga, as well as the papers he is holding, indicate that he works in the area of justice. 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 the sitter´s position in the social order. Thus, the high-crowned hat on the table alludes to the possibility that its owner has to cover his head. 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. These two paintings pose various technical, iconographic and chronological doubts. The existence of a receipt dating from 1624 in which Antonia commissioned Velázquez to make portraits of the King, the Count-Duke of Olivares and her first husband, and the fact that the latter was also a legal advisor and knight of Saint James has led some to think that the artist modified his portrait from that year to adapt it to the appearance of Antonia´s second husband. Stylistic analyses, however, seem to indicate that this was not the case, as they reveal a technique close that that of the early 1630s. In any case, it must be earlier than May 20, 1632, when del Corral died, as this work is not credible as a posthumous portrait (Text from Portús, J.: Velázquez. Guía, Museo del Prado, 1999, pp. 104-106).