The painting of Santa Rufina.
29 January 1999: Velázquez painting sells for record sum

29 January 1999: Velázquez painting sells for record sum

A painting of the patron saint of Seville, which had always been privately owned and not displayed in public, caused huge excitement when put up for auction

Debbie Bartlett

Friday, 29 January 2021, 12:16


A little-known painting by 17th century Spanish artist Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (usually just known as Velázquez) was sold at auction by Christies in New York on 29 January 1999, for a massive $8.1 million, the equivalent of one billion pesetas at that time.

The oil on canvas, measuring 77.2 by 64.6 cms, was bought by a New York-based collector.

This was a very exciting day for art lovers, as the painting had not been seen for over 50 years and works by Velázquez rarely come up for sale. As a result, there is always fierce competition to acquire them.

The oil on canvas is a depiction of 'Santa Rufina' and is believed to have been painted during the early years of the 1630s, just before or just after Velázquez's first trip to Italy around 1630-31.

Santa Rufina is the patron saint of Seville, The artist was born in the city in 1599, so the subject would have had a particular significance for him.

This painting, which was originally attributed to Murillo, another native of Seville, was being sold by a private collector who had bought it in 1948.

The first known owner of this painting was Velazquez's principal patron, Don Luis de Haro, who became Spain's prime minister under King Philip IV in 1643.

The painting seemed to disappear until 1868, when it resurfaced in the collection of Earl of Dudley in England. It was sold in London in 1925 and then again 23 years later to a collector from New York who put it up for sale in January 1999.

This Santa Rufina painting by Velázquez was sold again at auction in July 2007, this time by Sothebys in London, and was bought by the Focus-Abengoa Foundation of Seville for $17 million (12.4 million euros). The Foundation agreed with Seville council that the painting could be housed in a new centre dedicated to the artist, which was to be created in a building next to Los Venerables Hospital.

Santa Rufina, and Velázquez, had finally come home.

Reporta un error en esta noticia

* Campos obligatorios