The Spanish Golden Age lasted from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, during which time Spain was one of the wealthiest countries in the world and arts and literature flourished. This period of Spanish dominance began after 1492, when Spanish Christians “reconquested” Spain from the Moors and sponsored Christopher Columbus’ journey across the Atlantic, securing Spain’s power in the New World. It faded as the Spanish Hapsburgs lost power and Spain lost a succession of wars, including wars with the Netherlands and England. It was during this time that Cervantes wrote Don Quixote and buildings such as the Palace of Charles V and El Escorial were constructed. Also at this time, significant Spanish painters such as El Greco, Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Murillo, and José de Ribera were active.
Diego Velazquez was the court painter for Spanish King Philip IV. His painting Las Meninas (1656) is considered his masterpiece.