Kategorie-Archiv: Diego Velazquez

Diego Velazquez – The Surrender of Breda

Artist: Diego Velazquez

Start Date: 1634

Completion Date:1635


Material: canvas

Dimensions: 307 x 367 cm

Gallery: Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Although Velázquez studiously prepared his painting by studying a wide variety of sources, the end result is uniquely his own. The Surrender of Breda is considered a masterpiece for the following qualities;



The Surrender of Breda is a particularly difficult composition for the large number of figures, the complex crowds and accessories. In order to organize and balance the painting, Velázquez employs a device he commonly uses throughout his oeuvre: he divides the action into two planes. The reality of the war and the siege is compressed into the background, reminding the viewer of the history surrounding the main event.This main event, the actual act of the surrender, is pushed into the foreground, with its two protagonists clearly defined in the dead center: Nessau on the left, offering the keys and Spínola on the right, consoling his fellow man-in-arms.

Critics have noted that there is something very theatrical about the treatment of space, with the supporting figures tidily grouped to the left and right of the composition.

As always, realism is one of the most striking features of Velázquez’s paintings. Having personally known Spínola, Velázquez would have been able to paint a veritable portrait, but the artist does not neglect to individualize the supporting cast of characters.


Color palette:

The Surrender of Breda is a surprisingly light, bright painting for Velázquez, compared to the rest of his oeuvre. For once, even pastel colors are present, in the uniformed soldiers in the background and the sweeping flags to the right of the canvas.Many critics have attributed this lightness as well as the dominant brown, blue and yellow to the influence of the Venetians, especially Tintoretto.



The Surrender of Breda evidences another example of the free, loose brushstrokes that characterize Velázquez’s style, and which had such an impact on the art of Manet and the Impressionists. Here, Velázquez varies his brushstroke: in the foreground, it is tighter and more controlled, while it grows increasingly loose and abstract receding into the background, helping the artist to create a sense of atmospheric perspective.

Richard Strauss:
Velázquez’s The Surrender of Breda was greater admired by this late Romantic German composer. Strauss’s anti-Nazi, one-act opera Friedenstag (opus 81), premiered in 1938, was directly inspired by Velázquez’s painting.

The following list offers some of the best sources of further reading on Velázquez and his works.

• Brown, Dale. The World of Velázquez: 1599-1660. Time-Life Books, 1969

• Brown, Jonathan. Velázquez, Painter and Courtier. Yale University Press, 1986
• Carr, Dawson, et al. Velázquez. Yale University Press, 2006
• Davies, David, et al. Velázquez in Seville. National Galleries of Scotland, 1996
• Harris, Enriqueta. Velázquez. Phaidon, 1982
• Kahr, Madlyn Millner. Velázquez: the art of painting. Harper and Row, 1976
• López-Rey, José. Velázquez: A catalogue raisonné of his œuvre. Faber and Faber, 1963
• Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso, et al. Velázquez. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989
• Wolf, Norbert. Diego Velázquez, 1599-1660: the face of Spain. Taschen, 1998
• Wind, Barry. Velázquez’s Bodegones: A study in 17th century Spanish genre painting. Fairfax: George Mason University Press, 1987