The baroque painterDiego Velázquezhas numerous portraits of well-known personalities signed by him. From the images of the members of the royal family for which he worked, to other important positions in the Spanish court, such as the powerfulCount Duke of Olivares, or the Pope of Rome Innocent X
Velázquez's Lady with a Fan
In fact, both the life of the painter and that of the vast majority of those portrayed by him are well known and celebrated. However, there are also some of his works for which the protagonist has not yet been identified, such as this Lady with a fan that he made around 1640, and which today is part of the Wallace Collection in London.
So much so that some historians have come to say that she isFrancisca Velázquez, the painter's daughter. While others speak of a French noblewoman who, accused of being a spy, spent time in Spain. There are also those who say that she could be the portrait of a high-class courtesan or prostitute. Or even an aristocrat dressed as a courtesan for some kind of party.
These latest versions are based on the daring neckline shown by the woman, even more pronounced thanks to the concentration of light that the painter places on the skin of the portrayed woman. This type of neckline was not well seen in the Madrid court, in fact it had been prohibited by law in 1639. However,it must have been too effective a law since it had to be endorsed several years later.
On the other hand, that audacity, considered immoral by the most puritanical of the time, contrasts with the veil that wraps around the woman's shoulders, who also have gloved hands, a medal with a religious theme with a blue bow and even a rosary in her left hand. So there is a most peculiar game of sensuality and piety, and on the other hand quite strange in the work of Velázquez, who always stood out for being a spectacular commissioned portraitist, that manifested all his genius in the way of executing the portraits and not so much in elements as confusing as these.
That, added to the fact that the identity of the woman is not accredited, has given rise to all kinds of interpretations. All with points for and all with points against. Which is always something very interesting when discovering a work of art, and even more so from an artist as well known as the author of Las Meninas.