Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 109

Velázquez composes: prototypes, replicas, and transformations
It appears that even when the boedgones of ca. 1620
were long behind him, Velázquez still found replication
– probably with a cartoon – useful in his creative
process. In these two portraits the head and features
are identical in outline. The positions of the arms and
hands differ, yet still relate to each other like delicate
variations of the same graceful gestures. The costumes
also provide a counterpoint to each other: Lady with a
Fan shows a marked decolloté, but the dress is subdued
in hue. The lady in the Chatsworth picture wears a
gown of warm yellow tone, set off by contrasting black
bands, and her chest is completely concealed by a
large lace collar. Similarities in iconography and pose
between these two paintings by Velázquez, and prints
by Wenceslaus Hollar of women in contemporary
costume as personifications of the seasons prompt the
thought that perhaps Velázquez was intrigued by the
proof/counterproof relationship central to the design
and production of printed images (fig. 15).
Fig. 14 / In this overlay the
semi-transparent images of
Lady with a Fan and Portrait
of a Young Lady have been
registered on the head of the
figure. The traced outline of
the Wallace Collection figure
is overlaid on the Chatworth
painting, showing graphically
how closely the sitters
Fig. 15 / Wenceslaus Hollar,
Summer, ca. 1641, etching,
second state, 22.5 x 18 cm,
Thomas Fisher Rare Book
Library, University of Toronto.
This kind of replication announces an altogether
more sophisticated play of compositional elements:
the same model, with nuanced substitutions of
attributes or variations in pose, can exist in multiple
characters. Or is it the same character in different
guises? In the absence of documentary descriptions
for these commissions, it is tempting to wonder if
Velázquez, intrigued by the potentialities latent in a
template, like others of his age entertained an “acute
consciousness of the multiplicity and variability of the
manifestations of the human,”33 and used ingeniously
varied repetitions to engage his sophisticated patrons?
An argument has been advanced that in this pair of
portraits, Velázquez was exploring manifestations
of national and personal identity,34 and the same
sitter represented in contrasting costumes is a subtle
use of replication, where “In a world of deceptive
perspectives, illusions and appearances, it is necessary
to meet reality by way of fiction.”35
Velázquez composes: prototypes, replicas, and transformations


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