Book blogger, audiobook lover and shamelessly honest reviewer. Mostly read fantasy, mystery, romance, UF and YA but all genres welcome.
Juan de Pareja's portrait by Velázquez is my favorite painting (every time I see it, it makes me cry) so it was with trepidation and excitement that I started this audio.
The book follows the story of Juan de Pareja and his life as the slave of Diego de Velázquez, the leading painter in the court of King Philip IV of Spain. Historically, we know little of their life except what is portrayed in the paintings and important acts that were documented like marriages and deaths. The author did a good job of weaving known facts with situations that may well have happened. My only issue is that although Juan is an adult for most of the book, he doesn't seem like a grown-up but maybe this is so because the book was written for children. This book was also written in the 60s (around the time of the Civil Rights Movements) so there are also a lot of important thoughts regarding race relations and freedom.Velázquez is considered an early precursor of the realist and impressionist movements so hearing some of this thoughts on painting the truth (one of the few quotes that can be attributed to him) explained why he differed so much from his contemporaries and why he was so ahead of his time. Learning about the relationship between the portraits of Juan and Pope Innocent X's
was extremely enlightening and even a bit ironic. Both are masterpieces of a slave and a king painted around the same time and when you look at them, you feel like you know the real person (to me Juan looks the better person of the two; the Pope looks the type to stab people in the back. :)
The narrator did a good job with the characters and the pacing. She also had good knowledge of Castilian Spanish because she pronounced the 'Z' in the proper way (it may sound weird for people that are not familiar with this pronunciation but it is correct.:) However, she mispronounced Velázquez' name which drove me nuts (in Spanish, the U in QUE is silent but she would pronounce it as in Queen.) But this is something that would probably only bother a native Spanish speaker like me so if you want to listen to this, I wouldn't let that deter you.
I'm glad at the end that I picked this up because it really just makes me want to learn more. :)