Fundación Focus
<em>Velázquez Centre</em>

Velázquez Centre

Focus Foundation

Diego Velázquez

(Seville, 1599 – Madrid, 1660)
Artist biography

St Rufina, 1629-1632

Oil on canvas

79 x 64 cm.

Fundación Fondo de Cultura de Sevilla

St Rufina, 1629-1632

The Santa Rufina represents the nexus of the museological narrative running through this selection of works, because it brings together the entire process of Velázquez’s work, from his training in Seville to his move to Court. Painted when he was already in Madrid, between 1629 and 1632, its subject is closely related to the female figures in the ‘opening of heaven’ in the Imposición de la Casulla de San Ildefonso. When you look at it, you can better understand the creative world surrounding the painter. It shows one of the most beloved icons of the city, one of its patron saints, and this explains its particular significance.

Santa Rufina has the features of a girl and is depicted alone, without her sister Justa and without the Giralda, which is usually present in such representations. The execution of the painting is admirable, with signs of Seville naturalism in its small and neat drawing, and in the density of the pictorial matter typical of Velázquez’s youth. However, the dark backgrounds, characteristic of the clear tenebrism of his years in Seville, give way to greyish tones that lighten the surface, evidence of how his Seville technique became transformed through contact with the Madrid school and his exposure to the royal collections.

The work has passed through the hands of owners in a journey that has been both impressive and random. It appeared for the first time in the inventory of one of Velázquez’s patrons, Luis Méndez de Haro (1598-1661), Marquise of Eliche and the sixth Marquise of Carpio. It later went on to form part of the collections of the Alba family, and from there went on to Sebastián Martínez (1747-1800), a collector and friend of Francisco de Goya. After a few years in the possession of the Marquise of Salamanca (1811-1883), the painting left Spain and in 1868 was owned by William Ward, first Earl of Dudley, erroneously attributed to Murillo. From that time on it was sold several times and passed through the hands of various international collectors, being definitively won back for Seville by the Focus Foundation in 2007.

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