The artists commissioned to undertake this work had Diego Velázquez’s magnificent 1650 portrait of Pope Innocent X to use as their model. They were clearly familiar with the work through a reproduction, almost certainly an engraving, though we cannot entirely rule out the possibility of it being a pictorial copy, as many such were carried out no sooner had the original been completed. However, this is not an exact copy, given that it was expanded in all four directions: the Supreme Pontiff is depicted full length; to his left a cloth-covered table has been added, on which there is a sheet of paper, ink bottle with pen and a little bell; and a curtain which serves to close off the composition in the original has here been gathered up into two upper sections, also draping behind the chair.
Other liberties taken include the book he holds in his right hand, the position of the sheet of paper in his left hand, and chair’s decorations and the simulated frame. The piece was executed on a copper base measuring 61cm x 44cm, covered by countless feathers of different sizes (both whole and trimmed) and colours (varying shades of white, brown, red, orange, yellow, green and blue). The areas that have lost feathers show us that, curiously, these were stuck directly onto the metal, without there being any layer of vegetable fibre in between, as was commonplace. Other materials liberally applied to the work include thin strips of paper (orange, yellow, pink, flesh-coloured, brown and black), and gold leaf (on the frame and in details of the decoration of the chair, ring and shoe buckle).