Diego Velázquez in his hometown of Seville, Spain

Diego Velázquez was a master painter born in Seville. His baroque works are considered some of the best of the 17th century and his technique of contrasting light and dark has influenced artists like Picasso, Dali, and Bacon.

Diego Velázquez

Velázquez’s self portrait from his painting Las Meninas (image: Wikipedia)

Diego Velázquez was born in Seville in 1599 (probably, no one knows the exact date) to a working class family. As was often the way in 17th century Spain, Diego began his painting apprenticeship in 1610 or 1611 at the age of 11 or 12!

I have a special affinity for Velázquez because many of his paintings have food and drink as a subject. His first masterpiece, completed when he was still a teenager, Old Woman Cooking Eggs (National Galleries, Scotland) shows a scene of everyday people that the artist will revisit numerous times during his career.

Velázquez moved to Madrid in 1622 where he secured a position painting for Spanish royalty. He spent most of his career in Madrid, but did live in Italy twice, painting Italian nobility and the Pope.

Many of Velázquez’s best known works like Las Meninas and The Adoration of the Magi are housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Velázquez’s Las Meninas (image: Wikipedia)

Diego Velázquez died in 1660 and his remains were interred in a crypt in the church of San Juan Bautista in Madrid. But, in 1811 the church was destroyed by the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars.

Today, Plaza Ramales sits where the church used to stand. In the 1990’s a car park was scheduled to be built under the plaza. Before construction began, archaeologists excavated the space, looking for the remains of the beloved Velázquez.

Street sign in Madrid with the image of Velázquez (photo: Brent Petersen)

However, only one skeleton was recovered and testing revealed it did not belong to the painter. Today, the only memory of Diego is a plaque in the plaza.

Plaque dedicated to Velázquez in Plaza Ramales, Madrid (image: tripadvisor.com)

Velázquez sites in Seville

Fans of Velázquez have plenty to see in Seville. The top one is the Velázquez Center in the Hospital de los Venerables where Santa Rufina and other paintings are displayed, but there are other important places to see as well.

Hospital de los Venerables

In the 17th century, the catholic church decided it needed to provide assistance to elderly and sick priests, so the baroque Hospital de los Venerables was constructed. It housed priests in need until the 1970’s.

Today, the building houses the Velázquez Center, dedicated to painter Diego Velázquez. Several hospital rooms have been renovated into an exhibition space where you can see works by Velázquez including his masterpiece, Santa Rufina.

Photo: Brent Petersen

The courtyard and cloister is especially beautiful. Several reproductions of master works are hung outside including The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. The originals hang in Madrid’s Prado museum.

Adjacent to the cloister is the hospital’s chapel. It’s decorated with stunning frescoes.

Diego Velázquez birthplace

Diego Velázquez was born in Seville (probably in 1599, the year he was baptized). The house where he was born is being renovated and will hopefully be turned into a museum at some point.

Velázquez’s birthplace (photo: Brent Petersen)

Parroquia de San Pedro Apóstol

Parroquia de San Pedro Apóstol is the church where baby Diego was baptized. Inside there is small memorial commemorating the artist’s baptizm.

Plaza del Duque

Standing in the middle of Seville’s Plaza del Duque is a statue of Velázquez, high on a pedestal. If his pose looks familiar, that’s because the sculptor Antonio Susillo used Velázquez’s self portrait in Las Meninas as inspiration.

Velázquez statue in Plaza del Duque (image: Luis Galiana Jaraba)

Seville Museum of Fine Arts

The Seville Museum of Fine Arts is a large and important museum. Two works from Velázquez are on display. Cabeza de apóstol (on loan from the Prado) and Don Cristobal Suarez de Ribera.

Cabeza de apóstol (image: Wikipedia)

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides in Spain to Madrid, Cordoba, Jerez, and El Puerto de Santa Maria. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent