Juan de Pareja 1606 -1670

The portrait of Juan de Pareja by the Spanish artist Diego (James) Velazquez was painted when on a visit to Rome in 1648. He was going to paint a picture of the Pope, Innocent X, and so he asked his servant and friend Juan to sit for him to practice. The portrait of Juan is now world famous.
Juan’s mother was African who came to Spain as a slave, his father was Spanish. He was born in Seville in about 1610 and worked for an aunt of Velazquez. When she died he came as an assistant to Velazquez and helped him mix his paints and stretch the canvasses. It was forbidden for servants like Juan be an artist himself, but in spite of this Juan learned by watching Velazquez.
There is a story that Juan put one of his paintings with others by Velazquez. The King of Spain saw it and when he found out it was painted by Juan he said “this man can’t be a servant”. After this Velazquez made him a free man and they remained good friends for the rest of their lives.
One of Juan de Pareja’s paintings is “The Calling of St Matthew” which was finished in 1661. If you look carefully you can see that Juan has painted himself. He is standing on the left.
Juan de Pareja’s painting can be seen at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Velazquez’ portrait of Juan de Pareja is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This picture was in England until it was sold for $5.5 million (US dollars) in 1971.
Some think that Juan might have been the painter of pictures once thought to be by Velazquez.


Teaching Notes
Further reading
Information about Juan de Pareja
I Juan de ParejaSuitable for children in Key Stage 2.

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