He simply adored art and would collect it with a great passion and vigour. Philip would also pull together the finest artists for his court and required them to produce portraits of himself and his family on a regular basis. Velazquez's dozen-or-so portraits of him are amongst the highlights of this Spanish painter's career and also provide historians with a visual record of this figure's life over a period of a number of years. In all there was quite a variety in composition across the series, some outdoors amidst hunting excursions, with many others in a variety of pre-planned indoor setups. Philip IV certainly becomes a familiar face for those who have studied Velazquez's oeuvre and shows the level of reputation that he held during his own lifetime.

The portrait found here is fairly subdued in comparisons to some of the other paintings from Velazquez in which Philip appears. His upper body is in a dark coat with simple, flat ruff. There is a lack of detail on it, and additionally, it does not contrast much with the dark background found behind. This has the impact of thrusting all of the attention on the lighter elements, which is the King's face and the ruff around his neck. His moustache curves upwards in both directions, reaching upwards in a style typical during those periods for anyone able to achieve the look. His face is relatively pale, with none of the makeup used elsewhere. His hair is smart but hanging fairly loosely, making the overall appearance somehat more informal.

This artwork is one of nine Velazquez paintings to be found in the collection of the National Gallery, and here you can also discover more of the finest European artists in history, with a focus from the Renaissance up to the end of the 19th century. The likes of Titian, Goya and El Greco are all featured as well as possibly the most famous British artist in history, JMW Turner. The overall collection will keep you busy for a full day, perhaps more for those who make use of the audio descriptions and take their time making their way around this delightful venue. There are also a good number of other galleries and museums to be found within this city, that continues to draw in millions of visitors each and every year. Alternatives here include various Tate galleries as well as the Wallace Collection that is situated close to Oxford Street.

Philip IV (1653–1655) in Detail Diego Velazquez