Art, Politics, and Culture, Paper 1
TA Nicole Evans
Infanta Maria Theresa,
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez
The Spanish Golden Age did not translate into mountains of gold in King Philip IV's treasury.
To the contrary, territories were breaking away from the Spanish Habsburg empire, gold was not
flowing from the Americas the way it once did, and the monarchy was running out of money.
situation, it became even more critical for the children of King Philip IV to make good marriages and
through them alliances. In 1653, King Philip IV ordered his court painter, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
Velázquez, to create three oil on canvas portraits of his fifteen-year-old daughter Maria Theresa to send
to possible suitors in France, Brussels, and Austria in order to attract a good marriage.
needed to portray the Infanta Maria Theresa as possessing all of the ideal qualities of a bride of the
seventeenth century. She must be virginally pure, youthful, womanly, and learned in the proper courtly
manners. Any artist, no matter his era, would be challenged to bestow these qualities upon a fifteen-
year-old girl, no matter her upbringing. However, on viewing the
Infanta Maria Theresa
today in the
collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, the viewer would be struck to hear
that the young woman portrayed with such a collected demeanor was only fifteen at the time of the
painting. To portray Maria Theresa with the ideal traits necessary in a future queen and in the most
flattering light possible,
Velázquez employed the symbolism of color and objects, composition, and
the tenebrist style characteristic of those who had studied in the era of Caravaggio.
The colors of this portrait are fresh and clean – whites, roses, blue-greens, and even the greys
have a touch of blue. The white of Maria Theresa's dress expresses her purity and virginity, an essential
quality for any seventeenth century bride-to-be. The other colors show her youth and health, that she is