Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV, and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He painted religious subjects, portraits, and mythological scenes. His work inspired the baroque style that dominated seventeenth-century European painting.
Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain. He began his career as an assistant to a local painter, and then studied under Francisco Pacheco. His early work shows the influence of Pacheco and other Sevillian painters. In 1623, Velázquez went to Madrid, where he worked for King Philip IV. He quickly became the court painter, and painted portraits of the king, his family, and his advisers.
Velázquez’s best-known work is Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor, 1656). This painting shows the Infanta Margarita Teresa, her ladies-in-waiting, Velázquez himself, and other members of the royal household. The picture is a complex work, full of hidden meanings and symbolism.
Velázquez’s later years were marred by illness, and he died in 1660. His wife, Juana Pacheco, inherited his estate. She sold many of his paintings, and some of them ended up in private collections. Today, Velázquez’s work can be seen in museums all over the world.