A forgotten Velázquez

In the basement of the Yale University's museum, John Marciari discoverded a canvas now attributed to the painter's early period. 

Madrid, 07/01/10

For the last 100 years, the painting has sat in the basement at Yale University. The education of the Virgin remained hidden from the eyes of the great audience due to its poor state of conservation until John Marciari rediscovered the canvas. The technical data and a more profound exam of the painting point to Diego Velázquez as its author.

ARS MAGAZINE publishes the discovery of this painting, which could be this master’s most significant find for more than a century. The curator of the San Diego Museum of Art has written for the last issue of the magazine an interesting article (Velázquez rediscovered) on The Education of the Virgin, in which he defends Velázquez’s authorship of the canvas.

Although the theme lacks Biblical sources, the episode represented on the Yale canvas has a close precursor, the scene on the same subject painted by Juan de Roelas. In Marciari’s own words, it is “an explicit reference” to the Flemish painter’s canvas, “though worlds beyond it”.

“Who, than, created the Yale painting? Aside from the specific references to the painting by Roelas, the technical evidence of pigments, ground and canvas point to a Sevillian artist from the early XVII century.” Marciari claims in his article.

 “Further examination – of style and technique, of the painterly conceits, the manner of quotation, and other factors – leads to a unique origin: Diego Velázquez, born in Seville in 1599 and active there only until 1623, but even from the first moments of his career responsible for the revolutionary change in Spanish painting represented by the altarpiece.”

Jon Marciary establishes as the starting point the similarities between the recently discovered canvas and the Luncheon kept in Saint Petersburg Hermitage, one of the first works by the Seville-born painter.

According to the curator, there are numerous points in common between these paintings: “from the way that the figures emerge from the darkness, to the inconsistently cast shadows that set off brilliantly depicted still-life elements, to the long thick strokes of paint.”

The still-life that appears on the left side of the canvas (under Saint Joaquim) refers to other similar elements present in Velázquez’s paintings; pottery bowls, plates and baskets that reappear in Old woman cooking eggs, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, or La Mulata.

In the same way, the treatment of “deep, animated folds” of clothes worn by Saint Anne and the young virgin can be compared to the Immaculate Conception. The painting is currently undergoing restoration.

The complete text by John Marciari can be read in the 7th print issue of Ars which will be on sale from the next week on in all book shops. Sol G. Moreno

  • Attributed to Diego Velázquez. The Education of the Virgin . Towards 1617. Oil on canvas. Yale University Museum, New Haven. 

  • X-ray The Education of the Virgin

  • Diego Velázquez. Old Woman Cooking Eggs. 1618. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Scotland, Edimburgh.

  • Juan de Roelas. Saint Anne teaching the Mother of God to read. Towards1610-1615. Oil on canvas. Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville. 

  • The Education of the Virgin - detail

  • Old Woman cooking Eggs - detail 

Attributed to Diego Velázquez. The Education of the Virgin . Towards 1617. Oil on canvas. Yale University Museum, New Haven.