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Portrait of a Gentleman (supposedly Juan Mateos, Philip IV’s Master of the Hunt)

Diego Velazquez

Portrait of a Gentleman (supposedly Juan Mateos, Philip IV’s Master of the Hunt)

Diego Velazquez
  • Date: c.1633
  • Style: Baroque
  • Genre: portrait
  • Order reproduction

In August 2010 a number of works by the nineteenth century British artist, Matthew Shepperson, were consigned for sale at Bonhams Auction House. Among these works was a portrait of a gentleman, which was brought to the attention of experts who advised to withdraw it from sale for further investigation. The stylistic similarities to works by the great Spanish master led to extensive research, further technical analysis and an x-radiograph confirm the attribution to Velázquez. Researchers think he painted the portrait between 1632 and 1635, after his first trip to Italy. The sitter is unknown, but experts think it could be Juan Mateos, master of the hunt for Philip IV of Spain. Until the nineteenth century, little was known outside of Spain of Velázquez's work. His paintings mostly escaped being stolen by the French marshals during the Peninsular War. It remains a mystery how Matthew Shepperson, a jobbing artist who made minor ducats copying famous paintings at Buckingham Palace, got his hands on a Velázquez. He made a hobby of collecting portraits, and the painting is in excellent condition so he probably had no idea it was even as old as it is. An invoice of seven shillings was found in his papers that could refer to his purchase of the unknown Velázquez portrait. And so the painting that was bought for several shillings, and was due to go for sale for £300 is now expected to fetch up to £3 million, 10,000 times exceeding the original estimate. By the last count there were ninety-eight acknowledged pictures solely by Velazquez in existence and only four are in private hands.

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