Philip IV was a true patron of the arts, collecting a large number of pieces from a variety of periods in order to decorate his large properties. He would also commission the members of his court to produce their own work, which normally were portraits of himself or his family. In some cases, as found here, he would be dressed in armour, in order to symbolise strength and power. In other cases his clothing would be relatively more informal, or they would be outdoors whilst hunting. His role as a court painter may have stunted his imagination somewhat, but Velazquez appreciated the opportunity to secure a solid financial backing for the future, as well as being able to meet some truly powerful individuals who could also benefit his career.
The portrait found here features a beautifully elaborate outfit, with the artist going into great detail in order to communicate that to the viewer. There are white spots of paint up and down the black material, all perfectly aligned. The King wears grey/brown boots and gloves whilst his neckline has some white embroidered touches. Besides him in a table covered in a red cover and more materials is used in the background to disguise whatever was in the room at the time. Just by his feet is a lion which provides a particular note of interest, forcing us to try to understand whether this is a real lion, or perhaps a stuffed version that would have been much safer to use. We also wonder as to why it was placed behind him and is not afforded to much attention, lying just out of the shadows.
The painting can be found at the Prado Museum in Madrid amongst around sixty original artworks from Diego Velazquez. Alongside that you can also enjoy some of the highlights of European art history, such as The Annuncation by Fra Angelico, The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden as well as this self portrait from Albrecht Durer. There is much to see in this venue, and you might not fit it all into a single day for those who like to study each piece in great detail and make use of the audio commentary.