OIL PAINTING: Equestrian Portrait of Philip IV, 1635-1636
The king is shown by Velazques in all his absolute might and power enjoying, as a contemporary account puts it, a triumph such as few heroes of the past or present could boast. Seventeenth-century Spanish horses, bred from crosses with Arab stallions, were famous for their proud bearing and temperamental beauty. Velazquez had the opportunity of observing them daily in the royal stables or when the king put them through their paces. The curvet represented the peak of equestrian skill, the moment when the rider had to gather all his strength together, and in this picture the king is making his mount curvet. Baroque art also understood this pose as signifying the sovereignty with which a monarch tamed the unruly power of the people or the animal savagery of an enemy.