Campaigners bid to save Velazquez’s birthplace in Seville

On a narrow, crooked street in the Alfalfa neighbourhood of Seville is a yellow-painted house with a low stone doorway.

Velazquez is regarded as one of Spain's greatest painters
The birthplace of Diego Velazquez in Alfalfa. Photo by: Pedro Bernal

Here one of Spain’s greatest painters was born in 1599. Diego Velazquez, creator of such iconic masterpieces as Las Meninas, lived in the house until the age of around 11. He apprenticed in the city, producing such celebrated works as The Water Seller of Seville, before moving to Madrid.

The house, known as the Casa Natal Velazquez, dates from around 1570, and is possibly the oldest in the city – churches and convents still exist from that time, but few complete houses remain.

Interior of the house was born
The painter may have been born in this room at Casa Natal Velazquez. Photo by: Pedro Bernal

Recently used as an art gallery and then a fashion studio, the casa natal was empty for nearly a decade before local journalist Enrique Bocanegra decided that a historic building with such a rich artistic heritage could not be allowed to fall into disrepair. “It’s a miracle that it’s still here,” he says. Along with four other Sevillanos, he purchased the house in 2018, with the aim of restoring and converting it into a museum about the Spanish Golden Age genius.

From the time of Velazquez until the 1970s, the sprawling 580m2 house, arranged in traditional style around two open patios, was probably used as a corrala de vecinos (shared house) by several families. “The light here in the house is extraordinary,” explains Bocanegra. “You can see how it would have influenced his paintings.”

The Seville house still retains its original flagstone floor
The original flagstones still adorn the floors of Casa Velazquez. Photo by: Pedro Bernal

The artist’s birthplace preserves its original flagstone floors in the patios, and some wood-beamed ceilings, as well as a curious staircase with treads on alternate sides. Plans to restore the house to its 16th- century state include replacing modern floors with more traditional materials such as terracotta tiles.

A crowdfunding campaign has raised 10,000 euros towards the cost of refurbishing and converting the house, but no contribution has come from either local or regional government. Bocanegra is currently awaiting the permit for building works, and plans for the centre to open next year.

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