Diego Velazquez: Retrato de nina

Retrato de Nina: Diego Velazquez

Retrato de Nina (or Nina’s portrait in English) is a 1640 portrait of an unknown girl by Spanish court painter Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). In this likely unfinished painting, he combines a realistic likeness with an acute ability to bring out the quiet intelligence of the girl.

Analysis of Retrato de Nina

Retrato de niña or Portrait of a Little Girl (1640) is an exquisite creation of the brush of Diego Velázquez and, today, a prized possession of the Hispanic Society of America, in New York City.

It is one of Velázquez’s trademark portraits, accomplished most likely alongside the many others he created at the court of Philip IV of Spain. The young girl who posed politely for this picture has not been identified. The painting is also considered, by the critic López-Rey, an unfinished artwork.

What captivates most about this graceful child subject is the poise with which she looks back at her spectator. The confidence of her gaze seems to bespeak an aristocratic upbringing. Also concurrent to this impression is the healthy color of her complexion and the roundness of her cheeks and neck.

She is wearing a seemingly plain shirt that forms a circular rim around her clavicles. This is, of course, the unfinished section of this canvas. No doubt, the precise make and decoration of her clothing would have told us more about who she is.

Her brown hair — fashionably cropped at the top of the neck — is achieved in tactful contrast to the buff background (a distinctive feature of the portraits of Velázquez). We admire the virtuosity of light traces, coming in from our right, giving volume and color to entire areas of her hair. We also notice a strand of that hair lifting up from the outer hairline just enough for us to perceive its transparency and delicacy, and to enjoy the naturalistic detail in Diego Velázquez.

Velazquez is widely seen as the premier painter of the Spanish golden age and had artistic tributes made to him by the likes of Picasso and Bacon in the twentieth century.

Diego Velazquez’s Retrato de Nina (Nina’s Portrait) is at the Hispanic Society of America in Manhattan, New York City.

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