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Speech by Her Royal Highness, Infanta Cristina regarding the opening of the Velazquez Exhibition

London(National Galery), 16.10.2006

M

r. Director of the National Gallery,Mr. President of the Board of Trustees,Mr. Ambassador,Ladies and Gentlemen.Good evening. Allow me first of all to sincerely thank the organisers for their kind invitation which offers me the pleasure and opportunity to be here today at the inaugural ceremony of this outstanding exhibition of the Spanish painter, Diego Velazquez.I am still impressed by the brilliant account we have just heard from the Curator during our walk-through about Velazquezandrsquo;s unique and revolutionary technique for his time.Without doubt, few like Velazquez deserve, the title of universal master.Above all, I would like to highlight one of the characteristics of Velazquez that I feel is of crucial importance in order to understand his personality, and therefore, his work.I refer to his power to innovate, his inclusive attitude towards new trends, and his vision beyond the conventional norms. In a word: his European role.Velazquez lived in a significant transitional period in the shaping of Europe and, in particular, that of Spain. The XVII century was a time of profound transformation in the fields of philosophy, science, the arts and international political and economic relations.From the intellectual point of view, the mention of just some of the names of Velazquezandrsquo;s contemporaries, such as Galileo Galilei, Lope de Vega, Bacon, Calderón de la Barca, Murillo, Zurbarán, etc. gives us an idea of the prevailing atmosphere of that time, in which the profound belief in an ever ascending and optimistic sense of security, so typical of the Renaissance, started to wane.This conviction was replaced by a systematic critical approach to ideas, rules and conventions, which were considered immovable until that time.The andldquo;Baroque Centuryandrdquo; was primarily a time of change and renovation, which affected Spain very intensely, at a time when our country, playing its role as a andldquo;Universal Monarchyandrdquo;, faced new problems and challenges. It was also a period of cultural and artistic splendour that, not by chance, is known as the andldquo;Spanish Golden Centuryandrdquo;.Consciously or unconsciously, Velázquez expressed with his painting this evolution and change of values and perspectives of the spirit of his time.Owner of a library on a wide range list of issues, he also had access to the andldquo;Royal Collections of Artsandrdquo;, especially to the one of El Escorial (which he personally showed to Rubens on his visit to Spain). Velázquezandrsquo;s trips to Italy gave him, as well, the chance to compare and develop his unique technique, which would turn him into a real master among painters.Velázquez was a man of his time, classical and innovative, a seasoned courtier, capable at the same time of humanity and compassion towards the weak or the misfortunate.Perhaps, the best praise we could dedicate to Velázquez´s Art is that it is still alive, as proved by its influence over other painters such as Picasso or Francis Bacon, revolutionary icons of modern painting. Velázquezandrsquo; art is not only alive, but still captures the admiration and endearment of art loving countries where his works are the object of exceptional exhibitions like the one we are opening tonight.I wish this wonderful exhibition the great success it deserves and I thank you for your kind presence.

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