Becoming Actaeon: Titian and the Conceptual Gaze in Diego Velázquez’s Las Hilanderas

  • December 4, 2023
  • Online


Isabelle Kent (PhD candidate, University of Cambridge) presents new research on Velázquez in this hybrid lecture.

In the background of Diego Velázquez’s enigmatic masterpiece, Las Hilanderas, the artist summarizes with a few bravura strokes a treasure of the Spanish crown, Titian’s Rape of Europa. This citation, first identified in 1903, has underpinned many subsequent interpretations of the work, yet a second pivotal allusion to Titian’s poesie has passed unnoticed until now, that of Diana and Actaeon.

Taking these two citations as a starting point, this paper argues that Velázquez designed his painting within the intellectual framework of Conceptismo, with these quotations acting as correspondencias, mechanisms of interconnecting wit that weave art, metaphor and Ovidian myth. Combining this mode of intellectual thought as it applies to the poesie, with an embodied approach to how Velázquez as the curator of the King’s collection interacted with Titian’s paintings, this lecture (literally) pulls back the curtain on a new understanding the work, one that, as in Las Meninas, centers our ambiguous gaze.

This event is organized by ARTES, in conjunction with the Instituto Cervantes London and with the support of the Spanish Embassy in London.

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