Best: Velazquez, Juan de Pareja (1650). A masterpiece of world portraiture: Velazquez’s consummate brushwork comes through the unfortunate glazing, capturing light reflecting off the Moor’s forehead, texturing his skin, revealing itself in the lace color and rich gray background. Note the single red dot that marks the right ear.
Worst: Bartolome Esteban Murillo, A Knight of the Alcantara (1650-55). Flat, dull and lifeless – none of the soft atmospheric sweetness of Murillo’s Virgin and Child. The blacks of hair, cloak, breeches and hat merge indistinguishably. (A workshop effort?)
611. El Greco
Best: El Greco, Cardinal Fernando Nino de Guevara (c.1600). Wonderfully decorative portrait: loosely painted white cassock(?) under a rich purple robe; damask hanging behind, decorative tiles on the floor; and those architect eyeglasses! A refreshingly realistic El Greco.
Worst: Luis de Morales, The Lamentation (1560). Three maudlin mourners surround a cadaverous Christ with gopher teeth and rolled-up eyes. The ugliness of everything is not softened by Morales’s blurry style.
Best: Goya, Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga (1788). A crowd favorite, and why not? Totally mysterious and totally charming: a perfect little prince in red surrounded, surrealistically, by a cage of goldfinches, a magpie holding Goya’s card, and a trio of beady-eyed cats.