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Two Paintings for the Shod Carmelites, Seville

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Velázquez painted these two works as companion pieces during his early career in Seville, in around 1618. They were perhaps intended to promote the recent celebrations in the city of a papal decree defending the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin.

We don't know who commissioned The Immaculate Conception and Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos, but they are first recorded in 1800 in the chapter house of the Convent of the Shod Carmelite Order in Seville.

Saint John and the Virgin both appear in the foreground, surrounded by objects identifying who they are, strongly illuminated from the top left. The colours of the Virgin’s clothes are echoed in reverse in Saint John’s, and both paintings demonstrate Velázquez’s skill in conveying a strong contrast between light and shade.

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