This is a portrait of Diego Velazquez, from his arrival at the court of King Philip IV of Spain, to his death 38 years and scores of paintings later. It is a portrait of a relationship that is not quite a friendship, between an artist and his subject. It is a portrait of a ruler, always on duty, and increasingly burdened by a life of public expectation and repeated private grief. And it is a portrait of a court collapsing under the weight of its own excess.
Unfolding through series of masterly set-pieces and glancing sketches, this is a novel of brilliance, imagination and sheer style -- about what is shown and what is seen, about art and life.