Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 110

Velázquez composes: prototypes, replicas, and transformations
Velázquez composes: prototypes, replicas, and transformations
Velázquez’s painting of Democritus, dated 1627-1638
(Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts) (fig. 16) – inventoried
in the same seventeenth-century collection as the
Chatsworth portrait – and a workshop variation, Man
with a Wine Glass (Toledo, Ohio, Toledo Museum of
Art) (fig. 17) provide another example of the same
figure transformed by variations of attribute and
costume. Although currently the canvases differ
in size, the Toledo picture possibly having been
trimmed, the head and facial features, torso, and
back register exactly when the two paintings are to
scale and overlaid. Once more, the positions and
gesture of hands are varied (fig. 18). Radiographs
taken in 1964 indicate that the figure in the Rouen
painting was originally holding a goblet, but not in
precisely the same position or of the same shape as
seen in the Toledo painting. The latter may have
been a studio work related to the initial composition,
before the jolly toper was transformed into the
laughing philosopher Democritus, who points to the
globe reminding us that all the world is but a stage,
and we mere actors upon it. 36
Fig. 16 / Diego Velázquez,
Democritus, ca. 1629-1638, oil
on canvas, 101 x 81 cm, Rouen,
Musée des Beaux Arts.
Fig. 17 / Attributed to Diego
Velázquez, Man with a Wine
Glass, ca. 1630, oil on canvas, 76.2
x 63.5, Toledo Museum of Art.
There is still much unknown about the mechanics of
Velázquez’s use of prototypes and their replication.
The persistence and evolution of the role of replicas
and self-quotation suggest the possibility that
sometimes Velázquez transformed the practical
purpose of templates into an inventive recourse for
composition – a means of creating (in Pacheco’s
phrase) “of different things a pleasing whole.”37 In
an age enamoured of contradiction and disguise,
conceits of meaning and metaphor – where
moralists exhorted the artist to transform Venus
into a Magdalene38 – the multivalent possibilities of
replication must have had strong appeal.


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