Velázquez's abilities as both painter and observer make him one of the great portraitists of Western painting; this early work is among his most incisive psychological studies. Painted during Velázquez's first trip to court, this portrait may well have led to his first royal commission and swift appointment as a court painter. Gongora, one of Spain's leading poets, had become cynical and embittered during his years at court. The painter shapes his formidable head with broad, smoothly blended brushstrokes that create both the form and texture of Gongora's features, his tight, downturned mouth, and guarded gaze.
1622, painted in Madrid, probably at the request of Francisco Pacheco (b. 1564 - d. 1644) [see note 1]. 1660, probably with the artist [see note 2]. By 1677, Gaspar de Haro y Guzmán (b. 1629 - d. 1687), 7th Marqués del Carpio, Madrid [see note 3]; 1690s, sold from the Carpio estate to Nicolás Nepata [see note 4]. Marqués Benigno de la Vega Inclán y Flaquer (b. 1858 - d. 1942), Madrid. Private collection, Paris [see note 5]. By 1931, Tomas Harris Ltd., London; 1932, sold by Harris to the MFA for $34,000. (Accession Date: March 3, 1932)
 Velázquez began his career in the studio of Pacheco, a painter and writer, and eventually married his daughter, Juana. Although Pacheco asked Velázquez to paint the portrait, its early history has not been established. It is not known whether Velázquez took it back with him to Seville; this painting or a copy after it must have remained in Madrid, where it served as the basis for several copies.
 A portrait of Gongora is listed, without the artist's name, in the inventory of Velázquez's property made at his death in 1660 (no. 179).
 A portrait of Gongora by Velázquez appears in the 1677 inventory of the Marqués del Carpio (no. 102); see Enriqueta Harris, " 'Las Meninas' at Kingston Lacy," Burlington Magazine 132 (1990): 130, as well as the posthumous inventory drawn up at his residence at the Jardín de San Joaquin in 1689; see Marcus B. Burke and Peter Cherry, Collections of Paintings in Madrid, 1601-1755 (Los Angeles: Getty Provenance Index, 1997), part 1, doc. 115, p. 837 (no. 106).
 According to José López-Rey, Velazquez: The Artist as a Maker (Lausanne and Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1979), p. 235, cat. no. 25, the portrait continued to appear in Carpio's posthumous inventories (1692 and 1693) as "sold" and the buyer was Nepata, who bought a number of paintings from the estate.
 August L. Meyer, "Einige unbekannte Arbeiten des Velazquez," Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 56 (1921): p. 36, fig. 3, first published the work as being in a private collection. Whether the Vega Inclan collection was intended is not known. When the painting was included in "An Exhibtion of Old Masters by Spanish Artists" (Tomas Harris, Ltd., London, June, 1931), p. 1, it was said to have come the collection of the Marques de la Vega Inclan and "a private collection in Paris."
Maria Antoinette Evans Fund