Talk: Becoming Actaeon: Titian and the Conceptual Gaze in Diego Velázquez’s Las Hilanderas
In the background of Diego Velázquez’s enigmatic masterpiece, Las Hilanderas, the artist summarises with a few bravura strokes a treasure of the Spanish crown, Titian’s Rape of Europa. This citation, first identified in 1903, has underpinned many subsequent interpretations of the work, yet a second pivotal allusion to Titian’s poesie has passed unnoticed until now, that of Diana and Actaeon.
Taking these two citations as a starting point, this paper argues that Velázquez designed his painting within the intellectual framework of Conceptismo, with these quotations acting as ‘correspondencias’, mechanisms of interconnecting wit that weave art, metaphor and Ovidian myth. Combining this mode of intellectual thought as it applies to the poesie, with an embodied approach to how Velázquez as the curator of the King’s collection interacted with Titian’s paintings, this lecture (literally) pulls back the curtain on a new understanding the work, one that, as in Las Meninas, centres our ambiguous gaze.
Isabelle Kent is a PhD candidate at Trinity College, University of Cambridge researching the heroic body in early modern Spanish art. She has been a visiting scholar at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and El Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, and from 2017-19 she was the inaugural Enriqueta Harris Frankfort Curatorial Assistant at the Wallace Collection. Her work has been published in the Burlington Magazine, Apollo Magazine and the Hispanic Research Journal, and she is also editor of Collecting Murillo in Britain and Ireland (CEEH, 2020).