His first stay in Italy in 1629-1630 had much contributed to his artistic training but he was still unknown in that country when he arrived in Rome in 1649. He immediately portrayed his assistant, the mulatto slave Juan de Pareja. The Romans were dazzled by the physical and psychological resemblance between man and painting. Velazquez is the best portraitist of his time, or even of all time.
The doors open wide for Velazquez. In August 1650 Pope Innocent X sits for him. The artist wants to do better than Titian and takes a great care in the attitude and in the colors. Admiring the masterpiece, the pope famously says : "Troppo vero".
Major prelates now desire a similar portrait of them. At that time Velazquez works slowly. If he accepts, he endangers the mission for his king while his return is awaited with an impatience soon to be officially notified. If he refuses, he loses his best protectors for the acquisition of the works of art promised to the king.
The portrait of Monsignor Cristoforo Segni reveals the clever solution found by Velazquez. This outstanding person sits in an armchair and holds a paper in his hand, on the model of the portrait of the pope. The paper has the same role of identifying the artist and the prelate. For Segni the name of another artist, Pietro Martire Neri, is also indicated near that text.
This double authentication has puzzled all art historians, especially since no collaboration between Velazquez and Neri has ever been documented. The sharpness and expression of the face could however not have been achieved by Neri whose personal known work is rather mediocre. Segni's head is an autograph painting by Velazquez. Neri completed the rest, possibly after the departure of Velazquez from Rome.
This oil on canvas 114 x 92 cm is estimated $ 3M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on February 1, lot 48. The image is shared by Wikimedia. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
SOLD for $ 4.1M including premium