Spanish Art

Retrato de Inocencio X

'Retrato de Inocencio X' (Portrait of Innocent X) is a portrait of the man who was the Pope between 1644 and 1655. The portrait of Pope Innocent X was painted by the famous Spanish Baroque painter from Seville, Diego Velázquez, around the year of 1650.


Spanish Art - Retrato de Inocencio X

The portrait of Pope Innocent X was painted on Velázquez's second trip to Italy from Spain which he undertook from 1649 to 1651. However art critics and historians are in disagreement on how Velázquez ended up painting the portrait of the Pope in the first place.

The most popular version of the story says that due to Velázquez's considerable fame as a painter, he was rewarded with an audience with the Pope. Velázquez then offered to paint the Pope's portrait however Pope Innocent was not completely convinced of Velázquez's skills. Therefore, in order to prove his talent, Velázquez painted a portrait of his servant, Juan de Pareja. After seeing this painting, Pope Innocent X sat for Velázquez. It is said that the Pope was slightly disgruntled by the picture when it was complete, as it was perhaps a too truthful rendition of the man. However Pope Innocent X could not deny the great skill and quality of the portrait.

However, other art historians feel that this story is too dramatic and believe the Pope simply allowed Velázquez to paint his portrait, having seen the great skill of the painter in his other works, including portraits of other people in the Pope's inner circle.

The portrait was highly praised by Velázquez's contemporaries, and some even believed that it was the best portrait in Italy at the time. The painting was kept in the Pope's family and was not on public display. Later the portrait would be exhibited in the Doria-Pamphilj gallery which is where it still hangs today.

The Painting

Spanish Art - Retrato de Inocencio X

The portrait of Pope Innocent X is a Baroque style painting that is painted with oil paints onto canvas. The painting measures 1.4 metres by 1.2 metres. In 'Retrato de Inocencio X', the Pope is depicted sitting down and angled to the left, wearing white and red robes.

The robes that the Pope is wearing are painted extremely accurately and realistically. The colours used by Velázquez to create the appearance of the folds in the materials as well as the quality of the materials used for the outfit, are vivid yet still realistic. Furthermore, the technical skill in being able to paint multiple layers of the colour red, as is the case with the robes, chair, carpet and curtains in this portrait.

As was Velázquez's style, the painting shows more than just the physical appearance of the Pope. Diego Velázquez was able to capture the inner characteristics of Pope Innocent X, giving us a severer yet truer depiction of the man. This is particularly true of the Pope's face. Pope Innocent X is wearing a fierce and tense expression in the portrait yet he does not appear aggressive. The Pope was known for being alert and untrusting, and these elements come across clearly in the painting.

In his left hand, the Pope is holding a piece of paper, on which Velázquez signed his name, stating his ownership of the magnificent work. It is thought that the date of the portrait is also painted here but it is either too small or too deteriorated to make out, hence why the date of its production is just an estimate.

In comparison with some of Velázquez's other works, we can tell that his hand was much more smooth and refined when he painted the Pope's portrait than when he painted his earlier works. Although the painting is clearly in a Baroque and Realist style, there are signs of a slight movement towards Impressionism on the part of Velázquez.

© Spanish Arts 2011