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Portrait likely Velazquez's first of Spanish king

Associated Press Modified: September 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm •  Published: September 15, 2012
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DALLAS (AP) — In preparing an exhibit on 17th century artist Diego Velazquez's early work for Spain's King Philip IV, art historians believe they discovered that a portrait by the Spanish master at Dallas' Meadows Museum is likely his first of his lifelong patron.

"Diego Velazquez: The Early Court Portraits" opens Sunday at the museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the result of a partnership between the Meadows and Madrid's famed Museo del Prado, Spain's national art museum. The exhibit, which the Meadows calls the most important devoted to Velazquez in the U.S. in more than two decades, will run through Jan. 13.

"What you'll see in this exhibition is the beginning of one of the most extraordinary relationships in the history of art — that's the relationship between young Velazquez and Philip IV," said Gabriele Finaldi, the Prado's deputy director for collections.

"What you need there is an extraordinarily talented artist, which you have in Velazquez. But you also need a very far-seeing patron, and that's Philip IV, who had real personal passion for painting," Finaldi added.

Velazquez became the king's court painter in 1623, when he was only 24. It was a job he would hold until his death in 1660 at the age of 61. The exhibit focuses on his first decade working for the king.

For the first time in four centuries, the Dallas exhibit brings together two of Velazquez's early portraits of the king: the Prado's full-length portrait of him dressed all in black that was painted in the 1620s and the Meadow's bust-length portrait.

In anticipation of the show, both portraits underwent analysis at the Prado. X-rays of the Meadows portrait showed brush strokes indicating Velazquez was working out how to paint the king, helping back up the belief that it could have been his initial attempt.

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