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The Baroque Vortex

Velázquez, Calderón, and Gracián under Philip IV


Thomas S. Acker

If we look at the plays of Pedro Calderón de la Barca and the paintings of Diego Velázquez, the years 1635 to 1680 arguably mark the creative apex of Spain’s «Golden Age». In subtle portraiture and court plays, classical imagery combined with Church orthodoxy connecting antiquity’s glories to Spain’s Habsburg rule. The works of Baltasar Gracián, his allegorical Criticón (1651) and his prescriptive Agudeza y arte de ingenio (1648), offered other examples, and, in the case of the latter, explained this imagery. In these works, Gracián shares many of the same iconographic resources with Calderón and Velázquez. Commonalties in their historical, mythological, and religious subjects reveal the united and vigorous façade that Spain attempted to project through her art. The Baroque Vortex compares some of the similarities and differences to be found in the works of these three contemporaries.