Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656)..
From the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Velázquezs artwork was a model for the realist and impressionist painters, in particular Édouard Manet. Since that time, famous modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to Velázquez by recreating several of his most famous works.
Spains celebration of the 400th anniversary of Velázquezs birth included major exhibitions of his work at the Prado Museum, as well as a renewed search for his tomb. International media covered the dig, which began April 30, 1999, at the Plaza de Ramales, one block from the Royal Palace, because that is where the medieval Church of San Juan stood until it was wrecked during the last century. In early 2000, The Telegraph announced that the search for Velázquezs body would be abandoned: A CAR park is to be built over what is widely believed to be the site of the tomb of Velázquez, one of Spains greatest artists, after the authorities abandoned attempts to find his body...thought to have been buried in Madrid at the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. For 18 months the authorities have been excavating the site of the church which is buried under a residential area. But now they have bowed to residents demands for underground parking.