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Truly

It’s often been said that art reveals truth, though the question of how, or even what we mean by “truth” isn’t obvious. Antonio Palomino y Velasco, a historian of Spanish art, tells us that in 1650 Diego Velázquez was in Rome readying himself to paint the Pope, Innocent X. To prepare, he made a portrait from life of his assistant, a young Afro-Hispanic named Juan de Pareja. When he sent Pareja to show it to some of his friends, they were so amazed they didn’t know whether to address the man or his likeness. It was included in a major exhibition at the Pantheon, Palomino reports, “where it was generally applauded by all the painters from different countries who said that the other pictures in the show were art but this alone was ‘truth’.”

In this essay published in Transpositions, I study Velázquez's Juan de Pareja and the most well-known work by Juan de Pareja himself: The Calling of Saint Matthew. The piece explores the nature of truth, both theologically and aesthetically.


Velázquez

Juan de Pareja

1650

Juan de Pareja

The Calling of Saint Matthew

1661

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