I, Juan de Pareja

Occasionally Master would arrange his morning so as to be free for a little while shortly before noon. Then he would ask me to accompany him to one of the upper floors of the palace, from a window of which he could look out into the far distance.

“Space is medicine for eyes that have always to look at things too closely,” he told me. “Those far mountains rest me. And I like to study the light.”

When he was ready to descend, he would bring his eyes round and rest them thoughtfully upon me, and I could always watch them changing focus.

— from I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, 1965

I read this excellent novel to my son to supplement our Velazquez artist study. Velazquez is one of my favorite artists, and this story told from the perspective of his faithful servant makes me feel as if I have a better understanding of the great court artist from Spain. It also brings up interesting issues about slavery, the treatment of slaves, the laws regarding slavery, and the humanity of all people. The above quote contains my favorite line from the book. I don’t think it is recorded that Velazquez actually said that (not much is recorded except his paintings), but it is an artist-thing to say, and I completely agree. Looking out over a line of fields, allowing my eyes to travel to the furthest horizon, following a bare blue sky–it really is medicine for the eyes that have stayed indoors all day.


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