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Ernesto Paleani scrittore

Diego Velázquez. Portrait of a knight of the Order of Calatrava. Don Martin de Leyva

2019 Diego Velázquez. Portrait of a knight of the Order of Calatrava. Don Martin de Leyva. Iconography and iconology. Investigation and research (Attorno all’arte, 14) Cagli 2019. ISBN 978-88-7658-207-3



With this publication I was given the opportunity to deepen, not having the scholars up to now well determined the reasons for why Diego Velázquez has painted, first He the work here examined and then with other copies, of various sizes, carried out in the shop by his collaborators, of: “Portrait of a knight of the Order of Calatrava. Don Martin de Leyva” and to investigate in the archives and libraries the contemporary manuscript and printed texts at the time.

 I expanded what had been written before with the archival and bibliographic updates of both the works mentioned and the people.

It is good, therefore, to clarify that before starting to describe the historical-artistic path, to motivate and determine the authenticity of the painting, I referred to the examination carried out by prof. Maurizio Marini, an art expert, who, on March 25, 1998, authenticated the survey with his own signature in the back of the photo of the painting as a photo inserted in his catalog “Diego Velázquez, Electa, 1997”, in front of the Notary of Rome dott. Panvini Rosati, which corresponds to the expertise carried out by the same professor Maurizio Marini who accompanies the work. On 20 June 2009 the same professor Maurizio Marini, issued a valuable report on the painting that further confirms its authenticity. On behalf of the property, in order to better analyze the work, I was given the technical report on the state of conservation of the same that was carried out by Professor Giampaolo Ghislandi on December 1, 2004.

The painting in question is an oil on paper, applied on canvas (20 564 in. x 16 5964 in.), the work of the painter Diego Velázquez also published in the volume of Maurizio Marini in 19971 which depicts a study for a Portrait of a Knight of the Order of Calatrava.

According to professor José López Rey2 the identification derives from a coat of arms of the noble family of Murcia present in a version (oil on canvas, 38 3764 in. x 30 516 in.) conserved in New York, at the Hispanic Society of America and represents “Don Martìn de Leyva” mentioned in his reasoned volume on the Velázquez.

On this identification I have followed another additional historical-archival path that certifies the motivation of the four portraits of Martín de Leyva cataloged.

The other versions are: in Brescia, a collection of Conti Lecchi (oil on canvas, 41 1132 in. x 35 716 in., which comes from a collection of South Africa in 1947)3.

Then we have the version already (1936) in London, at the Vermeer Gallery, (with apocryphal additions, 28 4764 in. x 21 2732 in. originally, 25 2532 in. x 20 564 in.) whose characteristic is to have as a basis the study in object (20 564 in. x 16 5964 in.) which, in 1929, was on the antique market in Venice and, in recent years, in a collection in Caracas (Venezuela)4.

The work in question is always a portrait of the knight of the Order of Calatrava (20 564 in. x 16 5964 in.), reported by Mayer in his 1936 catalog (he had seen the work) and by Rey (as written by Mayer) and it is inserted in its catalog raisonné of 1963, only from the examination of a photo; the painting was present in Venice in 1929 and after a long period with an unknown location, appeared in a collection in Caracas, Venezuela5 and then in Switzerland.

For this work we have the scientific-archival motivation that Diego Velázquez painted this portrait, under examination, commissioned by the sons of Martin, being this dead in 1600, and therefore could not be the direct commissioner. This is proven in the investigation done on the Leyva Family, on the Order of the Knights of Calatrava and Diego Velázquez.

With this publication, I pay homage to the Spanish master Velázquez and to his important and high artistic quality; and it is truly a pain to know that he, like Leonardo da Vinci, no longer has their own grave where I can deposit a bouquet of flowers. He died on 6 August 1660 and was buried in Madrid in the crypt of the Fuensalida in the church of San Giovanni Battista. His wife Juana died only 7 days later and was buried next to him. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed by the French in 1811, so today we do not know exactly where his tomb is. Until the nineteenth century, the work of Velázquez remained little known outside of Spain and many of his paintings disappeared, stolen by French soldiers during the Spanish War of Independence.

Furthermore, I wanted to pay tribute to the Order of Calatrava, founded during the Templars' period and whose founding monk is called as our artist: Diego Velázquez.


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