Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Juan de Pareja

Juan de Pareja (born about 1610, died 1670)
Portrait of Juan de Pareja  (1610 -1670) by Velázquez (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez) (Spanish, Seville 1599–1660 Madrid)

This extraordinary portrait shows Velázquez's slave of Moorish (African) descent who served as an assistant in his workshop. Painted in Rome, it was displayed publicly beneath the portico of the Pantheon in March 1650. Velázquez clearly intended to impress his Italian colleagues with his unique artistry. Indeed, we are told that the picture "gained such universal applause that in the opinion of all the painters of the different nations everything else seemed like painting but this alone like truth." Velázquez manages to convey not only the physical presence of the sitter but his proud character: he became a painter in his own right and was freed by Velázquez in 1654 (the act of liberation was signed in 1650—nine months after the picture was displayed, but it required Pareja to remain another four years with his former master).

The picture was acquired in Italy by Sir William Hamilton in 1776; between 1814 and 1970 it belonged to the earls of Radnor and was purchased by the Museum at auction in 1970 for a record-setting price. (source: New York Metropolitan Museum)

I, Juan de Pareja is a novel by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1966.

The novel is written in the first person as by the title character, Juan de Pareja, a half-African slave of the artist Diego Velázquez, and model for one of Velázquez' most noted paintings, who earns his freedom through his own merits, artistic and otherwise.

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