Velázquez's portrait of Philip IV, king of Spain, went back on view in the European Paintings galleries today after an absence of more than a year, following the completion of a particularly complex restoration.
So altered had the picture become that its attribution was demoted to "workshop of Velázquez" in the 1970s. However, we know that Velázquez was paid for the picture on December 4, 1624, the year after he moved from Seville to Madrid and was appointed painter to the king. (The Museum actually owns the artist's signed receipt of payment.) Unfortunately, time and previous interventions have not always been kind to the picture, the quality of which had been lost beneath disfiguring overpaints and a thick, discolored varnish. Damaged it may be, but thanks to sensitive restoration by Michael Gallagher, the Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge of Paintings Conservation, working in collaboration with Keith Christiansen, the John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of European Paintings, it can now be admired as the great work that it is.
For up-to-date information on the painting and its restoration, consult the Collection Database entry. An in-depth, illustrated essay by Michael Gallagher, "Velázquez's Philip IV in the Metropolitan Museum," will be published in the Metropolitan Museum Journal: Volume 45, 2011, which will be available in March.