El almuerzo (c.1617)

Velázquez, Diego (1599-1660)

El almuerzo (Luncheon)
Oil on canvas, 108.5 x 102 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

Entered the Hermitage between 1763 and 1796; the collection of Catherine the Great.

Diego Velazquez, in whose work Spanish painting reached its zenith, created this depiction of a Breakfast, when he was just 18 years old. He was attracted to scenes from the life of the common people. The males gathered around the table represent three ages of human life and the young artist managed to give a precise characterization of each personage. The work was painted under the influence of Caravaggio’s oeuvre, as is indicated by the dark background, the abrupt contrasts of light and shade, and the sense of volume in the objects lying on the table. Note the bread and the handle of the knife – they seem to extend beyond the surface of the canvas. The old man depicted occurs in other paintings by the artist. The boy is also known: he lived in Velazquez’s home and served him as a model. The younger man seated on the right, though, undoubtedly has an entirely specific portrait resemblance and cannot be found in other works by the artist. It has been suggested that this image is a self-portrait of Velazquez. The old man’s white collar is hanging on the wall. It was the custom at the time when you sat down to eat indoors to remove and hang up your hat and collar. In these representatives of the common people Velazquez depicted traits of character typical of the Spanish: cheerfulness and restraint, good naturedness and a certain austerity. (SHM)