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Menippus
Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y
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Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y

Sevilla, 1599 - Madrid, 1660

Miniatura autor

Menippus

Ca. 1638. Oil on canvas, 179 x 94 cm.

Aesop and Menippus are first listed in the inventory of the Torre de la Parada between 1701 and 1703. Among other works, this hunting lodge had a vast cycle of mythological paintings made by Rubens and his assistants, as well as some of Velázquez’s portraits of buffoons and member of the royal family dressed as hunters. The inventory also lists Rubens’s Democritus and Heraclitus, which is practically the same height as Velázquez’s paintings, although somewhat narrower. They were probably interrelated and would have been painted during the same period, around 1638. A comparison of Rubens’ philosophers with those of Velázquez is very interesting for what it reveals about the latter’s personality. The northern painter’s figures are dressed in clothing of their own era, barefooted, and seated before a rocky landscape of the sort common in depictions of hermits and penitents. One laughs while the other sobs. Their physiques are completely rubenesque, that is, robust and well-muscled, and their expressions reflect solidly established codes. Velázquez, however, places his philosophers indoors, with clothing and footwear that could have been worn by any beggar in a Spanish city of his time, and his approach to their faces is equally indicative of a desire for realism. They are situated in a space like many of his portraits and, while there are numerous objects that would allow a symbolic reading, the painter plays with the limits between portraiture and fiction. As with many other works by Velázquez, there have been innumerable efforts to identify the meaning of this painting in the context of the Torre de la Parada. Some seem obvious, such as the relation between Aesop and the abundant animal fables in the building. Both Aesop and Menippus were known to cultured Spaniards, and the association of philosophy with poverty had become a figurative cliché in the European baroque as a result of the success of stoic thought at that time. Aesop carries a book (probably his Fables) and is surrounded by objects alluding to various circumstances of his life. His poor clothing refers to his origins as a slave and his humble life. The pail of water would be an allusion to the very ingenious answer he gave his owner, the philosopher Xantus, who consequently freed him. The equipment at his right probably refers to his violent death in Delphos, when his criticism of that city’s inflated reputation led its inhabitants to hide a goblet in his luggage. They then accused him of theft and threw him off a cliff. Like Rubens, Velázquez proposed his pair of philosophers as a contrast between laughter and tears, but he may also have sought another type of contrast: his choice of body postures indicates the degree to which he planned this work in terms of (or in response to) the Flemish canvases. Aesop, who exemplifies the free-spirited thinker, is equally free of material ties. Standing before us, helooks straight forward in an open manner. Menippus, however, appears in profile, protected by his cape, and looking at us almost from the corner of his eye. It is as if the painter were using his posture to transmit a sense of the avarice popularly associated with him. Aesop’s openness and freedom are equivalent to Democritus’s laughter, while Menippus’s diffidence and stinginess correspond to the tears and withdrawn nature of Heraclitus (Text from Portús, J.: Fábulas de Velázquez. Mitología e Historia Sagrada en el Siglo de Oro, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, p. 327).

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Technical data

Related artworks

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Oil on canvas, Ca. 1638
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Taille douce: etching and engraving on laid paper, 1791 - 1800
Inventory number
P01207
Author
Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y
Title
Menippus
Date
Ca. 1638
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
High/Height: 179 cm.; Width: 94 cm.
Serie
Torre de la Parada. Filósofos
Provenance
Royal Collection (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid, 1703-1711; Torre de la Parada, 1714; Royal Palace of El Pardo, Madrid, “pieza duodécima”, 1747, n. 123; New Royal Palace, Madrid, “cuarto del infante don Javier”, 1772, n. 930; New Royal Palace, Madrid, “pieza de vestir”, 1794, n. 929; Royal Palace, Madrid, “[1ª] pieza de vestir”, 1814-1818, n. 929).

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Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, El Pardo, 1747. Núm. 123.
Pieza Duodezima [...] La dha pieza numero 12 consta de ocho Pinturas que se nominaràn despues y pertenecen todas â las quarenta y dos, que se trageron a este Palacio del de la Torre de la Parada. / 123 / [Dos Pinturas de ygual alto [Vara y tres quartas] y mas ancho [una vara] que el antecedente;] Y la otra de Moenipus filosofo tambien de cuerpo entero ambas su marco dorado ... 3000

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 930.
Quarto del Infante Don Xavier [...] {13106} 930 / Pardo = Vn quadro que significa vn filósofo de dos varas de caida y vna de ancho original de Velazquez

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 929.
Pieza de Bestir [...] {56} 929 / Dos quadros de dos varas y media de alto y vara y quarta de ancho, el uno Esopo, y el otro Menipo à seis mil reales cada uno, Yd [Velázquez] ... 12.000

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 929.
[1ª] Pieza de vestir [...] {21193-21194} 929 / Esopo y Menipo = Velazquez

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 245.
Velazquez. / 245. Retrato de un viejo conocido con el nombre de Moemipo. / Embozado en una capa (cuerpo entero) (C.N.). / Alto 6 pies, 5 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 4 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1101.
1101.-Menipo. / Alto 1,79. Ancho 0,94.-Lienzo. / Luciano, el célebre escritor de Samosata, nos pinta á Menipo, anciano, calvo, envuelto en un palio lleno de remiendos y desgarrones, que da por todos lados paso al viento, siempre risueño y burlándose de los filósofos embusteros. Velazquez, que á fuer de hombre de elevado ingenio gozaba de sus privilegios como cualquier poeta, se imaginó un Menipo distinto del que retrató y encomió Luciano; y en despique de este mismo, tan infatuado con la filosofía menipea, hizo el cínico de Gadara la más repugnante y fea estantigua que rondó jamas los altos...

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Location +

(Temporary Exhibition)

Update date: 31-05-2016 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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