Cultured Wednesday: Diego Velázquez’s Infanta Margarita

Margaret Theresa’s 4-year-old self, painted by her father King Philip IV of Spain’s favorite court painter.

We have been posting portraits lately, and mentioned various Dutch painters.  Today, we will continue one trend but break with the other:  Here is another portrait of a young lady, but the painter is one of the Spanish Golden Age rather than the Dutch:

Retrato de la infanta Margarita Diego Velázquez
Retrato de la Infanta Margarita (Margaret Theresa of Spain),
circa 1655

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age.  Leading artist in the court of King Philip IV, he was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, they say.  It does not come as a surprise that Velázquez painted many portraits of the royal family.  The rise of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty did, after all, coincide with the Spanish Golden Age of of arts and literature.

This little cutie pie princess Margaret Theresa of Spain, who lived to bear the titles Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Queen consort of Hungary and Bohemia, and Archduchess consort of Austria, struck us as quite dignified for her young age:  She must have been around four at the time.  Velázquez painted her portrait at least 5 times between 1653 and 1660, at different ages, and his portraits of her are by far the most favorable, I dare say.

Now, while I am surely no expert on the matter, I find the 17th century Spanish style of painting quite distinct, although it is said that Velázquez’s obvious belief in artistic realism is comparable to many of the Dutch masters.  Considering the bold brush strokes that give his paintings depth, it is easy to understand why Diego Velázquez’s art and style was a model for the realist and impressionist painters of the early 19th century.


Cultured Wednesday: Brian Boru’s March

Brian Boru’s March is one of the oldest tunes in Ireland’s traditional repertoire, yet it is still widely played by traditional Irish musicians.

The 2nd Daughter found this wonderful piece of music while previewing a Jacquie Lawson eCard, specifically An Irish Blessing.  When we looked at Brian Boru’s pitiful Wiki entry of two sentences, we decided that this calls for a Cultured Wednesday post, and urgently!  The card has more info than the Wiki!

The song goes with lyrics, though not in the above version of the song, and here they are:

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lake and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessing of Saint Patrick behold you.

This tune is one of the oldest tunes in Ireland’s traditional repertoire, yet it is still widely played by traditional Irish musicians.

Brian Boru, also known as Brian Bórumha, is sometimes referred to as Ireland’s greatest king.  He lived from 940 to 1014 and reigned for 39 years.  It was a time of unsurpassed glory, prosperity and happiness.  He promoted the arts and learning, as well as the bardic arts within his clan, and is even credited with having originated surnames.  Some even say he was an accomplished harpist!  His patriotism and personal sacrifice brought the clans together under one king, for the only time in Irish history.  He was eighty-nine when his army faced the armies of the Norsemen at the Battle of Clontarf.  Brian’s warriors won the day, but soon afterward Brian was murdered in his tent.  Legend has it that Brian Boru died thanking God for the victory over the Vikings at Clontarf.  Such was his charisma and celebrity that his harp has remained one of the five symbols of Ireland.

The Brian Boru harp was made in honor of him some 300 years after his death, and remained in Limerick until the 1700s, when the blind harpist Arthur O’Neill restrung the harp and marched through the city.  His playing stirred the hearts of the people.  In his memoirs he wrote:

“The Lord be merciful to you, Brian Boru!  I hope in God that I will tune your harp in your presence in heaven!”

The march, wildly powerful and at the same time full of melancholy, both a music of victory and of mourning, is one of the earliest pieces that a harpist can learn.

Brian Boru's March
For recorder or tin whistle

I love Irish music!


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