Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I, Juan de Pareja

"Art must be true.  It is the one thing in life that must rest on solid truth.  Otherwise, it is worthless."

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

In my quest to read all the Newberys, I picked up "I, Juan de Pareja" in January 2009.  Because I love Spain, and I know who Velazquez is, I devoured the story, wishing genuinely that there was more.

Velazquez is a renowned Spanish painter from the seventeenth century.  His most famous piece of artwork, "Las Meninas" is an intriguing work that I feel privileged to have seen in person.  I, Juan de Pareja, is a book about Velazquez through the eyes of his slave, Juan de Pareja.  Juan is inherited by Velazquez when he is a young boy and becomes a pillar for Velazquez: he sets the canvases, washes the brushes, arranges the palette, and travels many miles at his master's side.  It is a captivating story, both in regards to the artwork that Velazquez created, and in terms of the beautiful relationship that unfolds between master and pupil.  Juan's voice is simple and raw, filled with honesty and emotion.

Whenever I am asked about my favorite book I respond that it is "I, Juan de Pareja."  I can't believe five years have passed since I read it, but I truly enjoyed again experiencing the surprise that comes from being uncertain how it would all go.  I love this book.

By the way, the cover is snatches of the artwork of Velazquez, which I also just love.  Go look up "Las Meninas" and read a little about the history of it.  It is the only self-portrait we have of Velazquez.

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