Velázquez and The Surrender of Breda by Anthony Bailey
The Making of a Masterpiece

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Passages of great eloquence cohabit with woolly arguments, infelicities of tone and bizarre episodes of carelessness—perhaps pointing to a fundamental mismatch of writer and subject... In either case, the muse is simply not with him on this adventure, and the book clatters to an unsatisfying conclusion.
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Synopsis

Behind the famous painting by Diego Velázquez lies a rich story of the artist's life in art

What began as propaganda art to celebrate a rare Spanish victory in the Eighty Years' War with Holland, The Surrender at Breda is today recognized as Velázquez's narrative masterpiece.

Breda is packed with vivid military detail—whole armies are suggested on the huge canvas, twelve feet high and eleven feet wide. Unlike typical surrender scenes, there is neither a heroic victor on horseback nor a vanquished commander on his knees. Instead the rivals appear on foot almost as equals. The loser bends forward to offer the key and receives a chivalrous pat on his shoulder, as if to say: "Fortune has favored me, but our roles might have been reversed."

Anthony Bailey examines the paintings from which the artist arose, coaxing stories from them that flesh out a complete portrait of one of the world's major artists whose personal life has remained largely unknown.

 

About Anthony Bailey

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Anthony Bailey is the author of Vermeer: A View of Delft, two books on Rembrandt, the novel Major Andre, and nineteen other books. A writer for The New Yorker for a quarter century, Bailey has been called "one of the best descriptive writers of his generation" (John Russell, The New York Times).
 
Published November 8, 2011 by Henry Holt and Co.. 288 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Jonathan Lopez on Dec 17 2011

Passages of great eloquence cohabit with woolly arguments, infelicities of tone and bizarre episodes of carelessness—perhaps pointing to a fundamental mismatch of writer and subject... In either case, the muse is simply not with him on this adventure, and the book clatters to an unsatisfying conclusion.

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