Portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares (Hermitage) Diego Velazquez Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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It is hard to imagine Velazquez choosing to paint this individual purely on his appearance, and the decision was all about his position as the Count-Duke of Olivares. Indeed, he appears several times within the career of this artist, including the more famous Equestrian Portrait of the Count Duke of Olivares.

The composition itself is a standard, front-on portrait with little detail other than the figure himself. The Count-Duke's clothing is predominantly dark, meaning very little can be made out from it within this dimly lit environment. His ruff struts out confidently, and it's white tones provide a clear contrast from the rest of his outfit. He appears to have a black scarf or cloth that covers the centre of his torso but the main interest is in his facial features and expression. An extravagant moustache plumps out from his cheeks, meeting up with the of his beard in a similar way to overgrown sideburns. He looks very well groomed but also eccentric at the same time, and although not the most attractive person that we've ever seen, his face feels memorable and perhaps partly that is down to the qualities of the artist who puts this portrait together.

Velazquez put this portrait together in 1635 and it can now be found in the collection of the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. Gaspar de Guzmán was the birthname of this gentleman, and he would become the Prime Minister of Spain during the reign of Phillip IV. Velazquez would become heavily involved with many members of this ruling group, and his time serving as a court painter meant it would often be his task to produce portraits of these individuals as well as documenting important events. Something worth noting is that visual differences between this and the early portrait of this man, suggesting that the Count-Duke of Olivares has actually aged quite badly over a short period of time, perhaps due to the stresses of the role or perhaps his own poor diet. A portrait such as this would have been easy for the artist to produce at this point in his career, having already used this layout for many other artworks across the 1630s.

The Hermitage Museum remains one of the most visited galleries in the world and boasts an extraordinary collection of which this portrait is a worthy addition. Besides Velazquez, you will also find related artists such as Veronese, Giambattista Pittoni, Tintoretto and Murillo on display here as well as Michelangelo's Crouching Boy as one of the biggest highlights. Those with broader tastes can also view some of the other many thousands of items which cover many cultures and civilisations, going well beyond just European art history. Even the building itself can be considered an artifact of note in it's own right and forms part of a series of stunning architecture that lines the St Petersburg river front in this part of the city.

Portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares (Hermitage) in Detail Diego Velazquez