Two painters that both worked under Spanish rule, Diego Velazquez and Peter Paul Rubens were considered two of the greatest p


Two painters that both worked under Spanish rule, Diego Velazquez and Peter Paul Rubens were considered two of the greatest painters in Europe. Diego Velazquez, being a more visual, rather then spiritual preferred, to paint portraits as well as genre scenes. His style one may consider calm, and easy on the eyes. Peter Paul Rubens on the other hand, painted highly sacred pieces capturing dynamic poses full of drama. Perhaps their preferences of subject matter were affected by where they mainly worked.

Peter Paul Rubens came from Flanders. Found in the southern Netherlands, it was a highly Catholic area. So of course, his work was often depicted sacred subjects. Velazquez on the other hand was the court painter for King Philip IV of Spain. This being the case, he had I’d imagine, more commissions to do personal portraits. As I said earlier, the over all mood of their paintings were complete and total opposites as well. Diego Velazquez’ paintings are soothing on the eyes, leading it slowly around, observing each skillful stroke, every realistically proportioned character.

He worked hard to match texture’s apperence. “Las Meninas” itself is a massive painting that is a combination of genre scene, group portrait, and self portrait. Peter Paul Rubens’ painting, “Allegory of the Outbreak of War” on the other hand, portrayed muscular figures that were influenced by Michelangelo. He dynamic composition, bold color, and brilliant light kept ones eye constantly on the move. It is highly debated whether or not “Las Meninas” is Velazquez’ personal manifesto. He seemed to have portrayed himself possibly on equal ground with the royal family to indirectly hint that he deserved more. “Allegory of the Outbreak of War” was quite a different type of Manifesto. It was a manifesto of Peter Paul Rubens’ personal feelings on war rather then portraying himself. These two men are both great painters, one for painting perhaps one if not the best painting in western art and the other know for setting the standards for European art, have some similarities but also differ greatly in terms of mood, use of colors, and dynamics.

“Las Meninas” was painted by Diego Velazquez in the year 1656. It is oil on canvass and measures at 10’5″ by 9’1″. Velazquez seemed to be the kind of painter that could find the silver lining in everyone. “Las Meninas” is a portrait of the princess Margarita, daughter of King Phillip IV of Spain along with her maids ladies-in-waiting. It was painted during the Spanish baroque. As I mentioned earlier, this painting is a combination of genre scene, group portrait and self portrait. It is considered by some to be the greatest painting in western art. It is now found in the Prado in Madrid

Peter Paul Rubens painted “Allegory of the Outbreak of War” in 1638 during the Flemish baroque. It’s is about 6′ 9″ by 11′ 4″. He was considered the greatest of the Flemish baroque painters. Ruben’s muscular figures were based off of Michelangelo’s style while his devotion to minute detail was of northern influence. As a man, Peter Paul Rubens well educated, wealthy and well liked. This painting however was his most powerful and personal work. Having seem so much war, he used his works to present his feeling on war. It portrays Mars moving forward to bring chaos to the world as Venus tries in vein to stop him. This piece currently hangs in the Pitti Gallery, Florence

“Las Meninas” is a beautifully painted work. Not only is it considered Velazquez’ greatest painting, it is considered one of the greatest in history. That’s a very impressive statement. Perhaps what makes it so impressive is the artist’s drive for optical realism. The forms are suggested through loosely applied paint. Also what makes this painting interesting is that nothing is emphasized, and nothing forced. Our eyes take a calm stroll through the painting, wandering from character to character in an arc like path from Velazquez, dipping down to the lowest point being the princess, and completing the arc, the eye travels back up with the girl to the right of the princess. As I said, it’s a combination of genre scene, group portrait, and self portrait. And the figures are captured in a baroque moment.

This painting also makes use of tenebrism and impasto. “Allegory of the Outbreak of War”, however is an intense look on the brutalities of war. It uses intense color and dynamic figures to emphisize the panic of the situation. The figures and placed in figura serpentinata. As with most of Peter Paul Rubens paintings, there is a high contrast of dark and light. Another note-able characteristic is the intense use of primary colors. For example, the blue sky and intense red of Mar’s cape. Both of these wonderful paintings successfully portray the characters depicted in their own world; breathing their own air. The figures are all realistically interacting with each other and of course, captured in a baroque moment.

Both of these paintings are personal manifesto for their creators personal feelings. But that is where the similarity ends. Velazquez painted “Las Meninas” to indirectly suggest to the royal family that he believed that he deserved greater recognition and standing in the court. He does so by several rather subtle means. First of all, the portrait he created of himself.

Instead of wearing an artists smock, he is wearing his royal court garbs with a knights cross over his chest. Another theorized idea is that to the right of the painter is a mirror as opposed to a painting that some may believe. In the reflection of the mirror stands the king and queen, thus Velazquez is putting himself on equal grounds with the royal family. A very bold statement. Ruben’s manifesto on the other hand is of a less self promoting nature. It is more like a protest to the constant wars taking place at the time. The painting depicts Mars having left the temple of Janus open. Which should be closed in times of peace. His love, Venus tries to stop him along with her small love gods using caresses but to no avail.

The Fury Alecto pulls Mars forward, to bring chaos to the world. There is a woman with broken lute signifying that harmony is impossible beside the discord of war, a mother holding her child showing that war opposes furtility and tenderness. There are many other less import forms of symbolism present but one last main figure is the sorrowful woman behind Mars and Venus, wearing all black, a torn veil, and deprived of her jewel represents unhappy Europe. Who has long suffered as a result of war.Both of these paintings are great examples of how artists can work their personal feelings otherwise known as manifesto into their paintings. One may consider them complete opposites when it come to the overall feeling mood of their works. They are considered equally great because Velazquez may have created one of the greatest paintings in all of western art but Rubens is credited with creating the first real European style.


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