Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)
The identity of the sitter has caused much debate: could he be the artist Alonso Cano; the playwright Pedro Calderón; or even the artist himself?
A more recent suggestion is José Nieto, who appears in the background of the famous Las Meninas painting (Prado, Madrid), and was a chamberlain in the Spanish royal household. Certainly the artist would have known José Nieto but his would be a much younger version of the man who appears in Las Meninas.
Some elements of the portrait appear sketchy but the intense gaze of the sitter is powerful and engaging, heightened by the fact that the colour palette is limited and all the viewer’s concentration is drawn by the face with its powerful gaze.