as a painter and fan of both manet and velazquez, i found this weighty tome disappointing. the focus is heavily institutional, with separate lengthy chapters on the history of the prado (madrid) and the louvre (paris) and their collections and display policies. the tone is self congratulatory, with no mention, for example, of the prado's misguided 19th century "restoration" (censoring and repainting) of works by goya and velazquez. the emphasis on manet as the source of spanish influence in france inappropriately neglects painters such as corot and downplays the secondary influence of degas. particularly galling is the negligent exploration of technique, style and imagery across the painters. this book provides absolutely no insight into the essence of velazquez's art (everything is reduced to "la cuisine" or brushy technique, which just as well characterizes rubens or hals), nor why it was novel in comparison to italian or northern european traditions (rubens and hals again), nor manet's struggle to accommodate it, nor what this struggle meant to other artists in paris at midcentury. one is left with the impression that spanish postcards somehow became fashionable and artists are rather faddish people. the narrative crawls from one microscopic example of influence or iconography to the next -- this manet painting derives from a specific etching or carte de visite -- and lingers lovingly over inventories of copyist visits and painting sales. j.s sargent *and* carolus-duran merit a skimpy 12 page section of text, while the collector archer m. huntington and the hispanic society of america get a fulsome 20 pages. the upshot is a verbose celebration of collectors and museums, with scanty understanding of artistic influence and its transformative effects on painting practice.