Francisco de Zurbarán, The Martyrdom of St. Serapion, 1628.
Like so many other artists, Diego Velázquez was influenced by Caravaggio’s style. This influence is seen
especially well in Velázquez’s early paintings like the Water Carrier of Seville dated c. 1620. This genre
painting shows a scene that was probably common in many Spanish towns—an old man selling water to
thirsty passersby, much like today’s street vendors. The water carrier is given great dignity, his rugged
face looking down at the glass he offers to the boy as if it were a sacrament. The piece is an almost
abstract composition focusing on a few rounded forms: the man’s heavily robed body and the two jugs.
But the degree of realism is amazing; we see every wrinkle of the man’s face, his torn cloak, and even the
water drops on the side of the jug.
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