Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain, the first child of João Rodrigues de Silva and Jerónima Velázquez, and was baptized at the church of St. Peter in Seville on Sunday, June 6, 1599. The baptism most likely occurred a few days or weeks after his birth. His paternal grandparents, Diogo da Silva and Maria Rodrigues, had moved to Seville from their native Portugal decades earlier. When Velázquez was offered knighthood in 1658, he claimed descent from the lesser nobility in order to qualify; in fact, however, his grandparents were tradespeople, and possibly Jewish conversos.
Velázquez was educated by his parents to fear God and, intended for a learned profession, received good training in languages and philosophy. Influenced by many artists, he showed an early gift for art; consequently, he began to study under Francisco de Herrera, a vigorous painter who disregarded the Italian influence of the early Seville school. Velázquez remained with him for one year. It was probably from Herrera that he learned to use brushes with long bristles.
After leaving Herrera's studio when he was 12 years old, Velázquez began to serve as an apprentice under Francisco Pacheco, an artist and teacher in Seville. Though considered a generally dull, undistinguished painter, Pacheco sometimes expressed a simple, direct realism in contradiction to the style of Raphael that he was taught. Velázquez remained in Pacheco's school for five years, studying proportion and perspective and witnessing the trends in the literary and artistic circles of Seville.