Juan de Pareja: from Slave to Painter of the King

Looking Closely Vol. 5

A recently discovered canvas of a hound holding a candle in its mouth is by Juan de Pareja, a painter who led an extraordinary life. He began as a slave in the studio of Diego Velázquez, secured his freedom, and forged a successful career as an artist in seventeenth-century Spain. Born in 1606 in the province of Malaga, Pareja was of mixed race: his mother was a Moor, his father Spanish. Spain was a prolific slave-trading nation, and most artists owned slaves. While grinding colours and stretching canvases in the workshop of Velázquez, Pareja formed his ambition to become a painter.


Watch our new video on Juan de Pareja and his painting of a hound here.


Read  Virginia Brilliant’s recent publication for a discussion of the artist and the rediscovered painting here.


Visit  The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website to explore Velázquezz’s portrait of Juan de Pareja here.


Learn more about the portrait of Juan de Pereja from contemporary artist Julie Mehretu, as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s series The Artist Project here.


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