VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
(b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)
Portrait of Innocent X
Oil on canvas, 141 x 119 cm
Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, Rome
"He was tall in stature, thin, choleric, splenetic, with a red face, bald in front with thick eyebrows bent above the nose [...], that revealed his severity and harshness...". These were the words used by Giacinto Gigli in 1655 to describe the pope (Giovanni Battista Pamphilj [1574-1655], made a cardinal in 1629 and elected to the throne on September 16, 1644), adding that "his face was the most deformed ever born among men."
Justi and later Morelli considered his head "the most repugnant... of all the Fisherman's successors" and "insignificant, indeed vulgar," with an expression similar to "that of a cunning lawyer."
Yet this ugly and sullen man was paradoxically the subject of one of the most admired portraits of the seventeenth century.
Apparently the Pope was not at first very enthusiastic about his portrait, describing it as troppo vero, "too real". However, we are told that it eventually won his approval, and he presented the Spanish painter with a very valuable gold chain.
Velázquez took a replica back to Spain with him. His art colleagues praised it, and many copies of the work were made.