Community Gathering Event: A Private Velázquez Tour at The Met

As you may recall, this year’s school-wide community book was I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño.  The students and faculty have discussed the book, but last week, the St. Bernard’s parents had a chance to take a deeper look.
The Community Gathering Committee organized a private tour with Stephan Wolohojian, the Jayne Wrightsman Curator in the Department of European Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He curated the focus exhibition, Velázquez Portraits: Truth in Painting.  
Two St. Bernard’s parents, Andrea D. and Erin D., shared their thoughts on the morning:
Today’s before-hours private tour at The Met was a huge success, despite the weather.  A wonderful thank you to our own St. Bernard’s dad, Jason H., for introducing us to Stephan Wolohojian.

Mr. Wolohojian’s insights and knowledge of 17th-century Spanish painters, and Velázquez in particular, made for a remarkable morning at The Met.  We learned how Velázquez moved from his early period in Seville to the Court in Madrid and how, once there, he created the portraits of the royal family and other members of the court that are recognized as among the greatest painted portraits of all time.  As Mr. Wolohojian described Velázquez’s “Juan de Pareja” at length, we were treated to a closer-than-usual viewing experience to see the artist’s techniques for ourselves.

We learned that Velázquez understood how cultural capital translates into power and authority. Due to his close connection to Philip IV, he returned to Italy as an agent of the King to assess and acquire art.  It was during this visit that he was commissioned to do a portrait of Pope Innocent X, which put
Velázquez in the highest echelons of painters.

Following completion of his portrait of the Pope, Velázquez painted “Juan de Pareja.”  He presented the portrait at the Feast of Saint Joseph at the Pantheon, where the extraordinary nature of the painting was immediately understood.  Velázquez used an incredibly restricted field of color to focus on the figure and created a portrait about the essence of his subject.  As explained at The Met, “when this landmark of western portraiture was first put on display it ‘received such universal acclaim that in the opinion of all the painters of different nations, everything else seemed like painting but this alone like truth.’”

We are grateful to The Met for their generous time and to the Community Gathering Committee for organizing this special event.