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Velázquez Centre opens permanent exhibition that explores the career of the Sevillian painter through his contemporaries

September 29, 2008

Seville, 29 September 2008.- The Diego Velázquez Research Centre today opened the exhibition of the centre’s permanent collection at the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville, the headquarters of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation. The event was presided by Alfredo Sánchez Monteseirín, the Mayor of Seville; Felipe Benjumea, Chairman of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, and Anabel Morillo León, Director General of the Foundation.

The opening of the exhibition represents is another milestone in the project that began on 4 July 2007 when the Focus-Abengoa Foundation acquired Velázquez’s Santa Rufina in London on behalf of the city of Seville. This was the moment when Seville City Hall and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation realised that they should join forces to create a research centre on Diego Velázquez under the scientific guidance of Benito Navarrete and Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez.

The exhibition opening today is in response to the overwhelming desire of the city of Seville to have an appropriate demonstration of the work of the Sevillian painter, as well as something much more important: to explain the background to his painting and the beneficial consequences that it has bestowed on the city. The new exhibition is the result of intense previous research work, including the exhibition From Herrera to Velázquez: the first naturalism in Seville (Focus-Abengoa/Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, 2005).

The fifteen master works in the exhibition have been chosen with a clear educational and scientific purpose to demonstrate how, in Seville, Velázquez “revolutionised” the history of painting by highlighting the beauty of the real world. The exhibition uses very careful presentation techniques, putting museography at the service of museology.

This philosophy is embodied by the work Vista de Sevilla, the most important depiction of the city that Velázquez painted in the 17th century, showing the flow of merchandise and the mass of people that existed at the time in the capital of Seville, and which helps the viewer to imagine what the city, which witnessed Velázquez’s birth and early days, was really like.

A testament of the background and generational references in “natural” painting are two exceptional works, Sagradas Familias by Juan de Roelas, and Inmaculada con San Joaquín y Santa Ana by Francisco de Herrera el Viejo, which have a surprising dialogue with the work of Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, one of the most influential painters in understanding Velázquez’s naturalism.

Together with this world of transit is the world of his friends, and at the same time, his contemporaries, who exercised great influence over him, such as the sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés, whose images show an absolute concordance with the formal preferences of the young Velázquez between 1618 and 1624, for example in La Imposición de la casulla a San Ildefonso. The high point in the discussion and a genuine tribute to the “retrato a lo divino” (divine portrait) technique is the Reunión de la Santa Inés and Santa Catalina by Francisco Pacheco, his maestro and friend, as well as the affiliation with the Santa Rufina. Resulting examples of his painting and of his intensity and natural realism include the painting of Zurbarán, represented in the Inmaculada and in Fray Pedro de Oña, two exemplary souls of his genre.

The climax of this exhibition is Murillo’s work, Santa Catalina, which was stolen from the Santa Catalina church in Seville by Mariscal Soult but today returns to the city that it should never have left.

This ambitious project would not have been possible without the collaboration of Seville City Hall and the Archbishop's Palace of Seville, the Prado Museum, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Asturias, the Selgas-Fagalde Foundation and important private collectors who wanted to collaborate with the initiatives promoted by the Velázquez Centre.

The Diego Velázquez Research Centre serves to promote the study of the work of the Sevillian painter as well as to analyse the background of his professional career in the city of Seville. It therefore has a clear objective: to contribute to instilling in the city’s residents the legacy of one of the most dynamic artistic periods of Seville, an era in which Andalusia was the benchmark for the whole of Europe.

The permanent collection as viewed by Benito Navarrete, scientific adviser to the Diego Velázquez Research Centre

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