A Famous Artist: Historical Fiction

We have a book I never get tired of reading out aloud. I am about to read I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino  yet again, this time to my youngest daughters, Sophie and Gemma-Rose. Although I know the story intimately, I still can’t wait to start the book. Isn’t that the sign of a good read aloud book? It has to be a story that can be enjoyed by both parents and children, over and over again.
Here is a description of the book:
When the great Velázquez was painting his masterpieces at the Spanish court in the seventeenth century, his colors were expertly mixed and his canvases carefully prepared by his slave, Juan de Pareja. In a vibrant novel which depicts both the beauty and the cruelty of the time and place, Elizabeth Borton de Treviño tells the story of Juan, who was born a slave and died an accomplished and respected artist.

 Upon the death of his indulgent mistress in Seville, Juan de Pareja was uprooted from the only home he had known and placed in the charge of a vicious gypsy muleteer to be sent north to his mistress’s nephew and heir, Diego Velázquez, who recognized at once the intelligence and gentle breeding which were to make Juan his indispensable assistant and companion—and his lifelong friend.

 Through Juan’s eyes the reader sees Velázquez’s delightful family, his working habits and the character of the man, his relations with the shy yet devoted King Philip IV and with his fellow painters, Rubens and Murillo, the climate and customs of Spanish court life. When Velázquez discovers that he and Juan share a love for the art which is his very life, the painter proves his friendship in the most incredible fashion, for in those days it was forbidden by law for slaves to learn or practice the arts. Through the hardships of voyages to Italy, through the illnesses of Velázquez, Juan de Pareja loyally serves until the death of the painter in 1660.

I, Juan de Pareja is the winner of the 1966 Newbery Medal.

I like this book so much probably because of the great love that permeates the story: the mutual love, friendship and loyalty that exists between Juan and his master Velazquez, the love they share  for art, and the love they both have for their Catholic faith. It is love that helps them through the various cruel and sad circumstances of their lives.
The book is available from Amazon and The Book Depository
After we’d read I, Juan de Pareja,we wanted to find out more about Velazquez and his paintings.
Three of Velazquez’s paintings are featured on the Smarthistory, art history section of the Khan Academy website. There are videos, and links to other information.
I, Juan de Pareja costs only $7.34, postage free, from The Book Depository. I thoroughly recommend buying a copy.
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  1. Reply

    I loved this book, too, Sue. It's a beautiful story with beautiful characters. I must read it to the younger girls – I might put it next term's plan. I'm thinking of doing fortnightly reading plans instead of term by term lesson plans, next term. I've bought A5 ring binders so that the pages can be added and swapped more easily. God bless:-) xxx

    1. Reply


      It's lovely to own some good books that can be returned to again and again, isn't it? I'm sure your younger girls will enjoy this book.

      Fortnightly reading plans? That sounds a great idea. I like ring binders too. Let me know what you're reading.

      God bless!

  2. Reply

    Thanks Sue – I've just put this on hold at the library 🙂

    1. Reply


      You found the book in your library? That's wonderful! Our library rarely has the books I really want to read to our children. Enjoy!

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