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Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)
Prince Baltasar Carlos in Silver
circa 1633
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Prince Baltasar Carlos (1629-46) was the son of King Philip IV and heir to the Spanish throne. In this portrait he is only about 3 years of age and his cherubic cheeks, innocent gaze and golden curls seem to represent the perfect image of childhood, but his setting and costume give a different message. He is standing, bathed in light, in a stage-like setting: a red velvet curtain to the left and an empty black space behind him. He is holding a sword and a sceptre-like staff. Lying on a cushion next to him is an adult-looking hat decorated with large and elaborate feathers.

His opulent silver dress with lace collar and pink sash, tied around his chest, indicates his youth, nobility and affirms his status. The heavy brocade seems to sparkle by the artist’s application of small flecks of white paint.

Ask your pupils to compare the different materials in the painting, such as: velvet, feathers, shimmering fabric, lace, wood and metal.
What would they feel like to touch and how has the artist captured their textures in paint?
Posed to the left, the young prince looks straight out of the canvas and holds our gaze. Yet, despite his lavish costume, he appears rigid and uncertain. Have we caught him unawares? Is he uncomfortable or self-conscious? Is it a mark of Velásquez’s genius that he is able at the same time to capture the vulnerability of the toddler, whilst also indicating his status and royal destiny?
What do your pupils think it would feel like to wear that costume? Do they think he is aware that he is heir to the throne of Spain?

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velásquez (1599-1660), portrait painter to the Spanish Court, portrayed Prince Baltasar Carlos numerous times. Depicted in different ways, Velásquez always emphasised the Prince’s royal virtues and his destiny as a future King. However, Prince Baltasar Carlos predeceased his parents, dying of smallpox at the age of 16.

Compare this painting to the group portrait of Madame de Ventadour with Louis XIV and his Heirs. What similarities can you see in the depiction of the two boys?

Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)  Prince Baltasar Carlos in Silver   circa 1633
Materials and technique: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 118 x 96 cm
Wallace Collection (P12)
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