Singer Sargent and Velazquez Finally Met

Above, John Singer Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” 1882, 87.6″ x 87.6″,Oil on canvas.

It wasn’t much of a surprise for me to learn that John Singer Sargent was greatly influenced by one of the greatest Spanish painters Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). I read some time ago that Sargent visited EL PRADO museum, in Madrid, Spain three times and that he used the name of Gustavo instead of John on the visitors’ book. Once inside he would expend countless hours trying to replicate Velazquez’s masterpiece: “Las Meninas”.

"Las Meninas" by  Diego Velazquez, 1656

Diego Velazquez's "Las Meninas" 1656 (Notice the painter's self-depiction in front of the canvas)

(125.3" X 108.7").

In 2010 El Prado had the works of these two great painters born more than 250 years apart, I think on his part, Sargent would have been certainly thrilled to have his work exhibited next to Velazquez.

Sargent and Velazquez meet: May 2010 (notice the similarity in sizes).

Above "Las Meninas"next to Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” (one of the most treasured pieces of the Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts). Both paintings has been compared before because of their similar uses of light and dark areas known as claroscuro.

-In Las Meninas, Velazquez depicted 5 years old Princess Margarita and her ladies in waiting, in the background is a mirror there you can see the Spanish King Felipe IV and Queen Mariana, on the foreground, you also observe Velazquez depiction of himself while doing the painting between a myriad of details.

La Infanta Margarita

-In Sargent’s painting 4 year old Julia is sitting on a rug accompanied by her older sisters, two in the shadows.

Julia Boit

And these two little girls, Margarita and Julia were finally reunited face to face in 2010 which was not easy to achieve:

Las Meninas as the center piece of El Prado's collection it not allowed to be loaned and Sargent's piece has rarely traveled since 1919 when it was donated by Boit’s daughters but thanks to a chance opportunity one of the curators of the Spanish museum learned that the MFA was in need of expansion and renovation and Sargent’s painting had to be moved. Through proper arrangements “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” traveled overseas on that early Spring of 2010.

Velazquez's "Don Juan the Pareja"

Another example of Velazquez influence on Sargent’s: "Carolus-Duran" (Sargent’s teacher and mentor) with Velazquez's "Don Juan de Pareja", even the colors are similar. Sargent's painting was one of his first portraits done way before fame and money, he was only 23 years old.

Sargent's " Carolus-Duran" (teacher and mentor).

Sargent’s love for everything Spanish can also be seen in "El Jaleo" and "The Spanish Dancer" as well.

In my case my early love for Spanish art was ingrained early on thanks to my mother’s teachings using her old encyclopedia. I remember clearly her admiration to Goya’s two Majas and explaining why he had to paint two versions. Also studying in an all girl Catholic school run by Spanish nuns in Bogota got me acquainted to their culture, seeing first hand the inspiration colonial artists like Gregorio Vasquez de Arce y Ceballos took from the Spanish Masters which can still be seen when you visit churches and cathedrals not just in my natal country but across Latin America.

Until next time!