Portrait of Philip III, a painting recently attributed to Velázquez, has been donated to the non-profit organisation American Friends of the Prado Museum by William B. Jordan, a leading specialist in Spanish painting.
With this donation American Friends of the Prado Museum is embarking on a direction determined by its mission to support the Museum and work closely with it, and the reception of this masterpiece represents a major event in its first year of existence.
With the intention of reinforcing cultural ties between the United States and Spain through the Museo del Prado and its historic holdings, American Friends is now placing this magnificent work on deposit with the Prado for its display in the context of the permanent collection, contributing to a more complete and detailed understanding of Velázquez’s initial period as a royal portraitist.
The first donation received by American Friends of the Prado Museum, on this occasion made by the art historian William B. Jordan, has entered the Museo del Prado as a long-term deposit. This is a previously unpublished Portrait of Philip III, which exhaustive research and technical analysis have confirmed to be an autograph painting by Velázquez. It will be exhibited at the Prado as a temporary, renewable deposit.
The work is a preparatory painting for the face of Philip III executed by Velázquez in relation to his composition The Expulsion of the Moriscos, executed in 1627 but destroyed by the fire in the Real Alcázar in Madrid in 1734 and only known from written descriptions as no copy of it has survived.
The addition of this work to the Museum’s collections as a long-term deposit will contribute to completing its representation of Velázquez as a royal portraitist, given that it is a work of outstanding quality and previously unpublished in the scholarly literature. As such, it will help to cast light on one of the key works of the artist’s early period at court.
This donation and its deposit at the Museo del Prado marks the launch of American Friends of the Prado Museum, a project supported by a group of American patrons with the aim of contributing to the dissemination and conservation of the collections housed in the Museo del Prado. It offers a wide-ranging programme of membership benefits, including tax advantages, free entry to the Museum and guided tours in English.
The painting was acquired by William B. Jordan on the London art market, where it was catalogued as a Portrait of a gentleman. Following its restoration, Dr Jordan studied the painting, leading him to consider the idea that it is a work by Velázquez, specifically a preparatory painting for the face of Philip III in The Expulsion of the Moriscos.
Among the reasons that have led Dr Jordan to defend this attribution are:
Philip III appears to be aged around 40 in the painting, his age in 1609 when the moriscos were expelled from Spain.
Stylistically, the work necessarily dates from later than 1609. It must have been produced between 1623, when Velázquez arrived at court and introduced a new style of royal portrait that corresponds to that of this work, and 1631, when he returned from Italy and adopted a notably different portrait style.
The fact that Philip III is in profile and looking up indicates that this is not a portrait (in which the sitter normally looks straight ahead) but an image to be included in a narrative scene.
The fact that the work’s characteristics are not comparable to the styles of the other portraitists working at the court in the 1620s, such as Van der Hamen, Maíno, Diricksen, etc.
A study of written descriptions of The Expulsion of the Moriscos suggest that the portrait of Philip III in that scene had a similar expression to this one and was looking in the same direction.
Again, a study of those descriptions led Dr Jordan to consider the idea that The Expulsion of the Moriscos was conceived as a pendant to Titian’s painting of Philip II offering the Infante don Fernando to Victory (Museo del Prado), which hung in the same room (the Salón Nuevo in the Alcázar) for which Velázquez’s work was painted. This idea led him to compare the portrait of Philip II in Titian’s work with that of Philip III in the present painting; a comparison that revealed numerous points of comparison with regard to the size and pose of the portraits.
Once in the Prado, a technical study of the work and comparison with other works by Velázquez have confirmed that he is undoubtedly the principal reference point for an understanding of this painting, in particular his portraits of the second half of the 1620s.
An analysis of the support, X-radiography and infra-red radiography have provided technical information on the canvas, the preparation and the manner of constructing the work, which are similar to those found in paintings by Velázquez of around 1627 and in all cases prior to his return from his first trip to Italy.
Secondly, a comparison between paintings such as Philip IV in Armour, Philip IV standing and The Infante don Carlos, painted around 1627-1628, in other words at the same time as The Expulsion of the Moriscos, shows similarities in the modelling, particularly in the lower part of the faces, a similar approach to the anatomical construction of the noses and foreheads and a comparable use of stylistic resources.
American Friends of the Prado Museum is a non-profit organisation based in the United States. Its principal mission is to contribute to the dissemination and conservation of one of the world’s most important collections of European art. It has been founded with the aim of strengthening cultural ties between the United States and Spain through the Museo del Prado and its historic holdings.
The project is supported by a group of American patrons with the aim of channelling the enormous philanthropic potential that exists in the United States, a country with a great tradition of this kind. It should be noted that Americans represent the largest total of non-Spanish visitors to the Prado, and as such American Friends of the Prado Museum constitutes an outstanding vehicle for increasing support for the Museum.
The donations received by American Friends of the Prado Museum from private individuals, companies and institutions that declare their taxes in the United States will be benefit from significant tax breaks, representing an important incentive for patrons who wish to become involved in this cultural project to support one of the best-known and most important historic art museums.
American Friends of the Prado Museum also offers a wide range of membership categories, starting from 100 dollars a year. Benefits include free entry to the Museo del Prado (both the permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions) and guided tours in English.
William Jordan is a Hispanist with a lengthy career devoted to museums. He obtained his doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, in 1967. That same year he was appointed the first director of the Meadows Museum of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He spent fourteen years there, working closely with the late Algur H. Meadows then with the foundation that Meadows left on his death for the creation of what is now one of the most important collections of Spanish painting outside Europe.
Between 1981 and 1990 William B. Jordan was deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, where he built up an important collection that represents all periods and artistic schools, in addition to creating an influential programme of exhibitions and research. In addition to curating exhibitions on El Greco and Ribera, Dr Jordan is one of the leading experts on Spanish still-life painting and has curated a number of exhibitions on this subject in museums, including the Museo del Prado, the National Gallery in London, the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Meadows Museum in Dallas. During the course of his career he has handled the acquisition of four works by Diego Velázquez. Now retired, he continues to be active in research and is also a collector and a member of several art museum boards in the United States.