One of the strangest paintings by Velazquez is this St. Thomas Aquinas.
Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas by Velasquez, 1632, Orihuela Cathedral Museum, Spain (Enlarge at (Wikipainting)
He is being comforted by angels after his great temptation.
See that woman running off at the top of the picture?
Detail of The Temptation of St. Thomas
That’s a prostitute. She was sent to seduce Thomas by his brothers, with the approval of his very mother, the Countess of Roccasecca, who didn’t want her gifted son to become a Dominican monk and retire from the world.
Thomas drove the temptress away with the firebrand you see lying in the foreground, still smoking; and, when she was gone, he drew a cross on the wall with it.
Two angels appeared then and put that cincture or belt around his waist as a prize of perfect chastity.
The temptation must have been hard on him—he looks exhausted. It was the hardest and the last trial. His mother had had him locked up in the family castle for more than a year and his brothers tormented him constantly.
For many years this painting was thought to be the work of another painter. It wasn’t until 1906 that a critic made the Velazquez claim. Even now there are critics who refuse to believe it is his work. “He might have had a hand in that standing angel,” says Gomez Moreno. “But the rest is by Alonso Cano or somebody.”