La infanta María Teresa de España

Oil on canvas
34,3 x 40 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.743)


This delightful portrait depicts María Teresa of Spain, daughter of Philip IV and his first wife, Isabel de Borbón. Born in 1638, María Teresa married Louis XIV of France, son of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, sister of Philip IV. This is probably one of the life studies that Velázquez or some painter from his studio would make for subsequent use as a model for the many official portraits commissioned from 1650 on, when Philip IV decided to send oil paintings of the infantas to the principal courts of Europe as a prelude to arranging marriages for them that would serve to strengthen family, diplomatic and political ties.

The infanta is looking shyly toward the viewer. Her face, made up after the fashion of the ladies of the Austrian court, is framed by a tightly curled wig adorned with a profusion of delicate butterfly bows of fine white cloth, which contrast with the more realistic butterfly nearest her face. This original hairstyle is very different from the ornaments of bows and feathers typically worn by ladies at the court of Philip IV. A similar adornment can also be seen in the hair of María Agustina Sarmiento in Las Meninas.

Velázquez made several portraits of the Infanta María Teresa, the first of which dates from 1647-1648, when she was nine or ten years old (now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Lehman Collection).

Somewhat later, Velázquez painted another, whole body portrait of María Teresa, which was sent to Vienna (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum).

Diego Velázquez (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez)

Seville, 1599 – Madrid, 1660

Trained in Seville, in the studio Francisco Pacheco. Summoned by the Count of Olivares, he moved to Madrid in 1623 and was appointed painter to the king. Dating from this period are a series of royal portraits and a few portraits of unidentified personages. On his first trip to Italy (1629-1631) he painted his two admirable landscapes of the Villa Medici, and on his return radically changed his technique: he stopped modelling forms precisely in favour of suggesting them, exploiting the visual effect to the full, and enriched his palette.

In 1643 he was appointed Valet to the king. On his second trip to Italy (1649-1650) he painted a number of portraits. Dating from his later years dating are several portraits of the royal family, notable for their chromatic richness and excellent handling, characterized by a remarkable syntheticism in which forms, light and volume are defined with a few brushstrokes.