Diego de Velazquez (1599-1660) was born in Seville and became an apprentice to the painter Francisco Pacheco in 1610. In 1623 Velazquez was named royal painter in the court of Philip II in Madrid.
Jonathan Brown's analysis of Velazquez's painting indicates that rather than follow the classical standard of ideal beauty, as was the Spanish Baroque style, Velazquez sought "the look and feel of people and things," reaching deep "into the essence of the visible world."
After 1640, documents show that Velazquez increasingly assumed the tasks of court decorator. In Brown's view, this shift of emphasis indicates that Velazquez's ambition was not solely to be considered a great artist, but also a great gentleman. (In Spain at this time, painters were regarded as craftsmen, "the social equals of blacksmiths, coopers, and carpenters.") At the end of his life, Velazquez was ennobled by the king, although it took a papal dispensation to achieve this.
"Velazquez" is enormously readable, meticulously researched and splendidly illustrated.