VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
(b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)

Pope Innocent X

c. 1650
Oil on canvas, 49,2 x 41,3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Perhaps the preeminent Spanish artist of the seventeenth century, Velázquez was, from 1623 on, court painter to Philip IV in Madrid. In 1650 Velázquez was sent to Italy to buy paintings for one of his monarch's palaces; while in Rome the artist was commissioned to portray the Pope. The final version (now in the Galleria Doria, Rome) was preceded by several small sketches. This canvas was executed probably by someone in his circle. Velázquez was given the unenviable task of depicting the most powerful and, according to contemporaries, the ugliest man in Rome. The artist was successful, for when the Pontiff saw the portrait he is said to have remarked, "troppo vero" (all too true!).