May 21, 2016

The Beefcake Art of Velazquez

In school, when you learned about Diego Velazquez (1599-1660), the great painter of the Spanish Golden Age, your teacher probably talked about how he introduced realism into the heavily stylized world of Renaissance art by depicting everyday people, drunks, peasants, workers, and dwarfs as well as the elite.

You probably didn't hear a word about his beefcake paintings, but Velazquez was also a master of the muscular male form.

This John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1622) developed some nice biceps on his diet of locusts and honey.

When you see reproductions of The Triumph of Bacchus (1628-29), they usually zero in on the three drunk workers, Los Borrachos, leaving off the beefy Greek gods who are providing the wine.

Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan (1630) also introduces a Greek god into a modern, realistic scene.  Are we supposed to find those blacksmiths grotesque?  They have obviously been working out!

Joseph's Tunic (1630) recounts the Biblical scene where Joseph's brothers bring his coat to his father Jacob to claim that he was killed by a wild animal.  But who is paying attention to that?  Your eye is drawn to the muscular backside of one of the brothers.

Christ Contemplated by the Christian Soul (1626-28): that kid is the soul, contemplating a rather beefy Jesus tied up for a non-Biblical bondage scene.

Maybe I would have liked Spanish class a little more if the teacher had brought up the beefcake instead of pontificating on the multivarious points of view in Las Meninas