The Late Paintings of Velázquez Theorizing Painterly Performance
The startling conclusion of The Late Paintings of Velázquez is that Diego Velázquez painted two of his most famous works, The Spinners and Las Meninas, as theoretically informed manifestos of painterly brushwork. As a pair, Giles Knox argues, the two paintings form a learned retort to the prevailing critical disdain for the painterly. Knox presents a Velázquez who was much more aware of the art theory of his era than previously acknowledged, leading him to reinterpret Las Meninas and The Spinners as representing together a polemically charged celebration of the "handedness" of painting. Knox removes Velázquez from his Iberian isolation and seeks to recover his highly self-conscious attempt to carve out a place for himself within the history of European painting as a whole. The Late Paintings of Velázquez presents an artist who, like Annibale Carracci, Poussin, Rembrandt, and Vermeer was not only aware of contemporary theoretical writings on art, but also able to translate that knowledge and understanding into a distinctive and personal theory of painting. In Las Meninas and The Spinners, Velázquez propounded this theory with paint, not words. Knox's rethinking of the dynamic relationship between text and image presents a case, not of writing influencing painting, or vice versa, but of the two realms being inextricably bound together. Painterly brushwork presented a challenge to writers on art not just because it was connected too intimately with the base actions of the hand; it was also devilishly hard to describe. By reading Velázquez's painterly performance as text, Knox deciphers how Velázquez was able to craft theoretical arguments more compelling and more vivid than any written counterparts.
Prize: Awarded an Honorable Mention in the Eleanor Tufts book prize competition, 2011, sponsored by the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies (ASHAHS)
'The Late Paintings of Velázquez is a comprehensive effort to treat some of the most important paintings by Velázquez as part of a self-conscious strategy to locate his past and present work against a backdrop of seventeenth-century art theory polemics, on the one hand, and in relation to the narrative of the history of early modern painting as it had been set up in the canonical Lives of Giorgio Vasari, on the other.' Sixteenth Century Journal
'... an insightful contribution to Velázquez Studies.' Bulletin of Spanish Studies