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"From Herrera to Velázquez. Early Naturalism in Seville" by Benito Navarrete

February 13, 2006

Seville, 10 February.- Today, at 8:00 pm, the headquarters of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation in Seville, the Hospital of Los Venerables, will host the conference entitled From Herrera to Velázquez. Early Naturalism in Seville. This lecture is part of the International Conference on Naturalism and will be given by Benito Navarrete, co-curator of the exhibition together with Alfonso Pérez Sánchez, and professor at the University of Alcalá. Mr. Navarrete will speak on the two years of work that have culminated in this exhibition and the aspects that have influenced its preparation.

Benito Navarrete’s presentation of today will attempt to explain the two years of research involved in the preparation of the exhibition From Herrera to Velázquez, exposing the most interesting elements that have contributed to a greater understanding of the rise of Velázquez’s revolutionary personality in the context of European painting of that period.

In the opinion of the curators of the exhibition From Herrera to Velázquez. Early Naturalism in Seville, the painting “ Kitchen Scene cannot be attributed to the Sevillian master, although it was undoubtedly painted by his closest circle and drew on his compositions, and is therefore of undeniable interest to the Sevillian school of painting at the time, as it reflects a common atmosphere. Here it is presented in a scientific context for the very first time.” The painting corresponds to the immediate circle of Velázquez and is closely related to Old Woman Cooking Eggs. It spent several months at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, in order to encourage an exchange of opinions among experts, and was dated between 1617-1620.

“One of the most fascinating themes that comes to the surface when contemplating the exhibition is the powerful renovating strength transmitted by the personality of the young Velázquez, recently graduated from Francisco Pacheco’s workshop”, explained Navarrete. In this sense, the impact of naturalism and the study of objects imbued with a Caravaggesque light and an amazing naturalism were responsible for the fact that Velázquez, at a very young age, already had his own workshop where other artists shared analogous solutions with him.

This is the context in which this new still life or kitchen scene must be considered. The painting presents a typically Spanish table with an oil cruet, a Triana pottery bowl of white engobe and several heads of garlic. On the floor, there are two plates holding aubergines, with a mortar on one side and several onions in front.

On the right we see a portable stove with a fire and a stew cooking on top. The work possesses an undeniable quality in the treatment of objects, although it also possesses defects in its poorly effected composition and in the awkwardly completed mortar. These deficiencies have led Benito Navarrete and Pérez Sánchez to conclude that the work is a creation of artists in Velázquez’s circle, although it is undoubtedly a painting to be taken into account in future investigations. This work is now being presented for the first time to the scientific community, and exposed to reflection and debate, inspired by the impact of the exhibition project that is being carried out at the Focus-Abengoa Foundation.

Tomorrow, 11 February, a Round Table on the new directions of research in the study of naturalism will be held, co-ordinated by Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez, curator of the exhibition and Honorary Director of the Prado Museum. Other participants include Ignacio Cano, director of the Museo de Bellas Artes of Seville; Vicente Lleó, of the University of Seville; Benito Navarrete, of the University of Alcalá; and Enrique Valdivieso, of the University of Seville.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was established in 1982 as a consequence of the cultural activity initiated in 1972 by Abengoa with the publishing of the works "Sevillian Topics" and "Iconography of Seville". During the same period a collection of documents, books and engravings on Seville, or by Sevillian authors, was being put together. This initial cultural activity brought Abengoa's senior management to see the importance of the company being seen outside its essential technological functions through an activity that would be of benefit to society as a whole, which in turn led to the founding of the Fundación Fondo de Cultura of Seville.

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