Center for the Humanities Friday Lunch Talk on Feb. 26th, 2021 will be given by Tanya Tiffany, IRH UW System Fellow. Her talk is titled “Humbleness and Opulence: Velázquez’s Genre Scenes and Elite Material Culture in Seventeenth-Century Spain.”
This Friday Lunch talk explores an apparent paradox that characterizes Diego Velázquez’s genre scenes (known as bodegones): despite their humble subject matter, they were displayed in the extraordinarily opulent residences of their earliest collectors. In addition, these paintings were themselves luxury goods that commanded high prices in appraisals from the time. I argue that the visual pleasure which contemporaries derived from the bodegones depended in part on the contrast between their spare compositions—whose figures and objects were rendered with a virtuosity that was said to evoke reality itself—and the precious objects that surrounded them. Artistic discourse from the period also suggests that the paintings’ lowly imagery was appreciated by their aristocratic owners because it invited them to contemplate Christian themes about the fleeting nature of the very kinds of worldly riches that filled their collections.