The Dim-Post

February 25, 2009

Picture of the Day

Filed under: painting — danylmc @ 10:37 pm

Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez, painted circa 1650.

All I can think when I see this is that Velázquez must have had balls of steel – Popes back then weren’t people to be trifled with, especially not Innocent X whose mistress was rumoured to poison cardinals so she could charge their successors a hefty fee in exchange for having his holiness appoint them to the suddenly vacant position.

By this stage in his career Velázquez has yet to paint Las Meninas, but maybe he already knows what he’s capable of and is confident he’ll go down in history as one of the greatest artistic geniuses of all time, so he felt free to paint whatever he liked. Or maybe artists and paintings simply weren’t all that important back then and the Pope would have merely been amused at this clever little portraitist’s presumption. Whatever his initial reaction, Innocent X hung the painting in his visitors waiting room.

Francis Bacon thought this was the greatest portrait ever painted and used it as the inspiration for his famous screaming popes.


  1. I suspect that Innocent considered that hanging the painting in the waiting room would frighten his visitors witless, and that that was no bad thing.

    I love what Bason did with this. The guy was a fucking genius.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — February 26, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  2. It is an utterly brilliant work

    Comment by Michael Stevens — February 26, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  3. He looks a bit like David Benson-Pope to me.
    I wonder what he’s doing now.

    Comment by Fairfacts Media — February 26, 2009 @ 9:57 am

  4. Fun fact: Bacon knew the painting only from reproductions. When he visited the Vatican, he refused to see the portrait. I think he missed out.

    Comment by Paul Litterick — February 26, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  5. I don’t remember seeing it in the Vatican – although I wasn’t interested in Spanish painters when I went to Rome so I probably walked right past it. I have a vivid memory of seeing it in either the Frick or the Met in New York. Maybe it was on loan.

    Comment by danylmc — February 26, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  6. All I can think when I see this is that Velázquez must have had balls of steel – Popes back then weren’t people to be trifled with…

    Yeah, but apart from giving him girly hands, a ball gown and an expression of churlish ill temper, what could possibly be considered “trifling with him?”

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 26, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  7. Sorry, it is in the Doria Pamphilj Gallery. There are several copies, some of which may be the artist’s work.

    Comment by Paul Litterick — February 27, 2009 @ 2:04 am

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