The Needlewoman by Diego Rodriquez de Silva y Velazquez (1566-1660), Spanish, was the second project attempted in the Copyist program. Because The Needlewoman was an unfinished portrait with little detail, the copying process took only 4 Tuesdays to complete, about 20 hours. The head of The Needlewoman was modeled in light and shadow and is the most fully realized part of this painting as opposed to the remainder of the painting including the arms, hands, etc., which are sketched in only briefly. The resulting painting displays the Velazquez facility to portray gesture and his ability to suggest the subject melding into the background. It is believed that The Needlewoman was not completed by Velazquez. The painting was found upon examination of the inventory in his home at the time of his death. The Needlewoman is very similar to several of his other works.
I participated in a workshop entitled “Painting in the Manner of Velazquez” with Robert Liberace in the summer of 2011 at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. I was intrigued by the Velazquez style and therefore welcomed the opportunity to copy an original at the National Gallery of Art. During the workshop I used authentic paints as were used in Velazquez’s time. I prepared my linen canvas according to conventions of the period. I felt transformed back in time. Many of Velazquez’s paintings were dark compared to other more colorful painters of his time. However, he put down paint beautifully, very thin paint, almost nothing at times and yet in chiaroscuro style achieved a luminosity that made his work glow.
I learned a great deal from the study of Velazquez. How much? You be the judge.