painting - Las Meninas

painting - Las Meninas
Photograph by dreamsjungon Flickr.

He was also responsible for the sourcing, attribution, hanging and inventory of many of the Spanish king s paintings. One painting Las Meninas scholar points out that the legend dealing with two women, Minerva and Arachne, is on the same side of the painting mirror as the queen s reflection while the male legend is on the side of the king.

Like Las Meninas, they often depict formal visits by important collectors or rulers, a common occurrence, and show a room painting Painting disambiguation with a series of windows dominating one side wall and paintings hung between the windows as well as on the other walls . This is also a feature of Los Borrachos of 1629, where contemporary peasants consort with the god Bacchus and his companions, who have the conventional undress of mythology.

He notes that in addition to the represented mirror, he teasingly implies an unrepresented one, without which it is difficult to imagine how he could have shown himself painting the picture we now see . The elusiveness of Las Meninas, according to Dawson Carr, suggests that art, and life, are an illusion . Her opposite number creates a broader but less defined reflection of her attention, making a diagonal space between them, in which their charge stands protected. A further internal diagonal passes through the space occupied by the Infanta.

The Baroque painter Luca Giordano said that it represents the theology of painting , while in the 19th century Sir Thomas Lawrence called the work the philosophy of art . Nieto is shown pausing, with his right knee bent and his feet on different steps.

More recently, it has been described as Velázquez s supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting . In 17th-century Spain, painters rarely enjoyed high social status. Instead he analyses its conscious artifice, highlighting the complex network of visual relationships between painter, subject-model, and viewer: For Foucault, Las Meninas contains the first signs of a new episteme, or way of thinking, in European art.

Sussman had assembled a team of 35, including an architect, a set designer, a choreographer, a costume designer, actors, actresses, and a film crew. A 2008 exhibit at the Museu Picasso titled Forgetting Velázquez: Las Meninas included art responding to by Velázquez s painting by Fermín Aguayo, Avigdor Arikha, Claudio Bravo, Juan Carreño de Miranda, Michael Craig-Martin, Salvador Dalí, Juan Downey, Goya, Hamilton, Mazo, Vik Muniz, Jorge Oteiza, Picasso, Antonio Saura, Franz von Stuck, Sussman, Manolo Valdés, and Witkin, among others. . The first is defined by the canvas that projects into the left side of the painting, and on the right, the figures of the large dog and male dwarf.

Her face is framed by the pale gossamer of her hair, setting her apart from everything else in the picture. For this reason his features, though not as sharply defined, are more visible than those of the dwarf who is much nearer the light source.

Gallery Portraits were also used to glorify the artist as well as royalty or members of the higher classes, as may have been Velazquez s intention with this work. The light models the volumetric geometry of her form, defining the conic nature of a small torso bound rigidly into a corset and stiffened bodice, and the panniered skirt extending around her like an oval candy-box, casting its own deep shadow which, by its sharp contrast with the bright brocade, both emphasises and locates the small figure as the main point of attention. Velázquez further emphasises the Infanta by his positioning and lighting of her Maids of Honour, whom he sets opposing one another: to left and right, before and behind the Infanta.

Teniers work was owned by Philip IV and would have been known by Velázquez. The second zone of the composition contains the figures of the Infanta and her maids and dwarf.

Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour) is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Through the door the figure of Nieto stands, in the fifth zone.

Their glances, along with the king and queen s reflection, affirm the royal couple s presence outside the painted space. The point of view of the picture is approximately that of the royal couple, though this has been widely debated. Leo Steinberg argues that the orthogonals in the work are intentionally disguised so that the picture s focal center shifts.

According to Lucien Dällenbach: Jonathan Miller asks: What are we to make of the blurred features of the royal couple? It is unlikely that it has anything to do with the optical imperfection of the mirror, which would, in reality, have displayed a focused image of the King and Queen . Stone writes: According to Kahr, the composition could have been influenced by the traditional Dutch Gallery Pictures such as those by Frans Francken the Younger, Willem van Haecht, or David Teniers the Younger.

The sixth zone is located in the depth of the mirror on the rear wall, and, like all mirror images, tends in two directions, so that it seems to project the painting itself outward into the space of the viewer, thus creating a seventh zone in which both the viewer and the king and queen stand. According to LĂłpez-Rey, the painting has three focal points: the Infanta Margarita, the self-portrait and the half-length reflected images of Philip IV and Queen Mariana. As the art critic Harriet Stone observes, it is uncertain whether he is coming or going . Velázquez himself (9) is pictured to the left of the scene, looking outward past a large canvas supported by an easel. A mirror on the back wall reflects the upper bodies and heads of two figures identified from other paintings, and by Palomino, as King Philip IV (10) and his queen, Mariana (11).

He placed his only confirmed self-portrait in a room in the royal palace surrounded by an assembly of royalty, courtiers, and fine objects that represent his life at court. Michel Foucault devoted the opening chapter of The Order of Things (1966) to an analysis of Las Meninas. Due to exposure to pollution and crowds of visitors, the once-vivid contrasts between blue and white pigments in the costumes of the meninas have faded. Las Meninas is set in Velázquez s studio in Philip IV s Alcázar palace in Madrid. To the rear and at right stands Don JosĂ© Nieto Velázquez (8)—the queen s chamberlain during the 1650s, and head of the royal tapestry works—who may have been a relative of the artist.

Lacking an heir, Philip married Mariana of Austria in 1649, During the 1640s and 1650s, Velázquez served as both court painter and curator of Philip IV s expanding collection of European art. According to Janson, not only is the gathering of figures in the foreground for Philip and his wife s benefit, but the painter s attention is concentrated on the couple, as he appears to be working on their portrait. The mirror on the back wall indicates what is not there: the king and queen, and in the words of Harriet Stone, the generations of spectators who assume the couple s place before the painting .

The relationship between illusion and reality were central concerns in Spanish culture during the 17th century, figuring largely in Don Quixote: the best-known work of Spanish Baroque literature. Jonathan Miller points out that apart from adding suggestive gleams at the bevelled edges, the most important way the mirror betrays its identity is by disclosing imagery whose brightness is so inconsistent with the dimness of the surrounding wall that it can only have been borrowed, by reflection, from the strongly illuminated figures of the King and Queen . As the Maids of Honour are reflected in each other, so too do the king and queen have their doubles within the painting, in the dimly lit forms of the chaperone and guard, the two who serve and care for their daughter.

The maid to the left faces the light, her brightly lit profile and sleeve creating a diagonal. The face of Velázquez is dimly lit by light that is reflected, rather than direct.

The royal couple appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on. Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. This appearance of a total face, full-on to the viewer, draws the attention, and its importance is marked, tonally, by the contrasting frame of dark hair, the light on the hand and brush, and the skilfully placed triangle of light on the artist s sleeve, pointing directly to the face. From the figure of the artist, the viewer s eye leaps again diagonally into the pictorial space.

There is a similar connection between the female dwarf and the figure of Velázquez himself, both of whom look towards the viewer from similar angles, creating a visual tension. What is life? A shadow, an illusion, and a sham. The greatest good is small; all life, it seems Is just a dream, and even dreams are dreams. Jon Manchip White notes that the painting can be seen as a résumé of the whole of Velázquez s life and career, as well as a summary of his art to that point.

The pictorial space in the midground and foreground is lit from two sources: by thin shafts of light from the open door, and by broad streams coming through the window to the right. Velázquez uses this light not only to add volume and definition to each form but also to define the focal points of the painting. Writing in 1980, the critics Snyder and Cohn observed: In Las Meninas, the king and queen are supposedly outside the painting, yet their reflection in the back wall mirror also places them inside the pictorial space. Snyder proposes it is a mirror of majesty or an allusion to the mirror for princes .

The positioning of these figures sets up a pattern, one man, a couple, one man, a couple, and while the outer figures are nearer the viewer than the others, they all occupy the same horizontal band on the picture s surface. Adding to the inner complexities of the picture and creating further visual interactions is the male dwarf in the foreground, whose raised hand echoes the gesture of the figure in the background, while his playful demeanour, and distraction from the central action, are in complete contrast with it. Giordano described the work as the theology of painting , An almost immediate influence can be seen in the two portraits by Mazo of subjects depicted in Las Meninas, which in some ways reverse the motif of that painting.

The work is a recreation of the moments leading up to and directly following the approximately 89 seconds when the royal family and their courtiers would have come together in the exact configuration of Velázquez s painting. In the Rokeby Venus—his only surviving nude—the face of the subject is visible, blurred beyond any realism, in a mirror.

In this, as in some of his early bodegones, the figures look directly at the viewer as if seeking a reaction. In Las Hilanderas, probably painted the year after Las Meninas, two different scenes from Ovid are shown: one in contemporary dress in the foreground, and the other partly in antique dress, played before a tapestry on the back wall of a room behind the first. He supervised the decoration and interior design of the rooms holding the most valued paintings, adding mirrors, statues and tapestries.

Similar to Lopez-Rey, he describes three foci. Many critics suppose that the scene is viewed by the king and queen as they pose for a double portrait, while the Infanta and her companions are present only to relieve their boredom. The back wall of the room, which is in shadow, is hung with rows of paintings, including one of a series of scenes from Ovid s Metamorphoses by Peter Paul Rubens, and copies, by Velázquez s son-in-law and principal assistant Juan del Mazo, of works by Jacob Jordaens. The paintings on the back wall are recognized as representing Minerva Pushing Arachne and Apollo s Victory Over Marsyas.

The positioning of such an area of strong tonal contrast right at the rear of the pictorial space is a daring compositional tactic. According to López-Rey, in no other composition did Velázquez so dramatically lead the eye to areas beyond the viewer s sight: both the canvas he is seen painting, and the space beyond the frame where the king and queen stand can only be imagined.

A Mazo portrait of the widowed Queen Mariana again shows, through a doorway in the Alcázar, the young king with dwarfs, possibly including Maribarbola, and attendants who offer him a drink. Francisco Goya etched a print of Las Meninas in 1778, The 19th-century British art collector William John Bankes travelled to Spain during the Peninsular War (1808–1823) and acquired a copy of Las Meninas painted by Mazo, The copy was admired throughout the 19th century in Britain. The art world developed a new appreciation for Velázquez s less Italianate paintings after 1819, when Ferdinand VII opened the royal collection to the public. Between August and December 1957, Pablo Picasso painted a series of 58 interpretations of Las Meninas, and figures from it, which currently fill the Las Meninas room of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, Spain. Ten years later, in 1666, Mazo painted the Infanta Margarita (see image above), who was then 15 and just about to leave Madrid to marry the Holy Roman Emperor.

However, the painter has set him forward of the light streaming through the window, and so minimised the contrast of tone on this foreground figure. Despite certain spatial ambiguities this is the painter s most thoroughly rendered architectural space, and the only one in which a ceiling is shown. Depth and dimension are rendered by the use of linear perspective, by the overlapping of the layers of shapes, and in particular, as stated by Clark, through the use of tone.

In the background are figures in two further receding doorways, one of which was the new King Charles (Margarita s brother), and another the dwarf Maribarbola. Much of the collection of the Prado today—including works by Titian, Raphael, and Rubens—was acquired and assembled under Velázquez s curatorship. The painting was referred to in the earliest inventories as La Familia ( The Family ). The painting has been cut down on both the left and right sides. In recent years, the picture has suffered a loss of texture and hue.

At the time, van Eyck s painting hung in Philip s palace, and would have been familiar to Velázquez. The work s complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted.

Another man stands, echoing and opposing the form of the artist, outside rather than inside, made clearly defined and yet barely identifiable by the light and shade. The most common assumption is that the reflection shows the couple in the pose they are holding for Velázquez as he paints them, while their daughter watches; and that the painting therefore shows their view of the scene. Of the nine figures depicted, five are looking directly out at the royal couple or the viewer.

The shapes of bright light are similar to the irregular light shapes of the foreground Maid of Honour, but the sharply defined door-frame repeats the border of the mirror. The mirror is a perfectly defined unbroken pale rectangle within a broad black rectangle. Both stories involve Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom and patron of the arts.

By the early 1650s, Velázquez was widely respected in Spain as a connoisseur. Picasso did not vary the characters within the series, but largely retained the naturalness of the scene; according to the museum, his works constitute an exhaustive study of form, rhythm, colour and movement . In 2004, the video artist Eve Sussman filmed 89 Seconds at Alcázar, a high-definition video tableau inspired by Las Meninas.

When he painted Las Meninas, he had been with the royal household for 33 years. Philip IV s first wife, Elizabeth of France, died in 1644; and their only son, Baltasar Carlos, died two years later. representation, freed finally from the relation that was impeding it, can offer itself as representation in its pure form. Many aspects of Las Meninas relate to earlier works by Velázquez in which he plays with conventions of representation.

On the other hand, his royal portraits, designed to be seen across vast palace rooms, feature more strongly than his other works the bravura handling for which he is famous: Velázquez s handling of paint is exceptionally free, and as one approaches Las Meninas there is a point at which the figures suddenly dissolve into smears and blobs of paint. First, there is the appearance of natural light within the painted room and beyond it.

A mirror hangs in the background and reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. More specifically, the crook of his arm is where the orthogonals of the windows and lights of the ceiling meet.

The third zone is occupied by the artist himself with the chaperone and guard set slightly behind him, the fourth zone being defined by the plane of the rear wall with its rows of paintings. The informality of his pose, his shadowed profile, and his dark hair all serve to make him a mirror image to the kneeling attendant of the Infanta.

But because her face is turned from the light, and in shadow, its tonality does not make it a point of particular interest. The spatial structure and positioning of the mirror s reflection are such that Philip IV and Mariana appear to be standing on the viewer s side of the pictorial space, facing the Infanta and her entourage.

In this respect, CalderĂłn de la Barca s play Life is a Dream is commonly seen as the literary equivalent of Velázquez s painting: What is a life? A frenzy. The long-handled brushes he used enabled him to stand back and judge the total effect. In 1692, the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634–1726) became one of the few allowed to view paintings held in Philip IV s private apartments, and was greatly impressed by Las Meninas.

Foucault describes the painting in meticulous detail, but in a language that is neither prescribed by, nor filtered through the various texts of art-historical investigation . In 1960, the art historian Kenneth Clark made the point that the success of the composition is a result first and foremost of the accurate handling of light and shade: However, the focal point of the painting is widely debated.

The Infanta, however, stands in full illumination, and with her face turned towards the light source, even though her gaze is not. Painting was regarded as a craft, not an art such as poetry or music.

Much of her lightly coloured dress is dimmed by shadow. Similarly, the light glances obliquely on the cheek of the lady-in-waiting near her, but not on her facial features.

This compositional element operates within the picture in a number of ways. He seems to have been given an unusual degree of freedom in the role.

According to the critic Sira Dambe, aspects of representation and power are addressed in this painting in ways closely connected with their treatment in Las Meninas . Velázquez s portraits of the royal family themselves had until then been straightforward, if often unflatteringly direct and highly complex in expression. The viewer looks into a scene that is seven layers deep, arranged at irregular intervals, like a stage-set.

Foucault viewed the painting without regard to the subject matter, nor to the artist s biography, technical ability, sources and influences, social context, or relationship with his patrons. A clear geometric shape, like a lit face, draws the attention of the viewer more than a broken geometric shape such as the door, or a shadowed or oblique face such as that of the dwarf in the foreground or that of the man in the background.

The painted surface is divided into quarters horizontally and sevenths vertically; this grid is used to organise the elaborate grouping of characters, and was a common device at the time. The added complexity of this picture is that the division into seven is applied not only to the pictorial surface of the composition, but also to its depth. These two legends are both stories of mortals challenging gods and the dreadful consequences.

The viewer cannot distinguish the features of the king and queen, but in the opalescent sheen of the mirror s surface, the glowing ovals are plainly turned directly to the viewer. The angle of the mirror is such that although often described as looking at herself, The dress worn in the two scenes also differs: the main scene is in contemporary dress, while the scene with Christ uses conventional iconographic biblical dress.

It represents a mid-point between what he sees as the two great discontinuities in art history, the classical and the modern: Perhaps there exists, in this painting by Velázquez, the representation as it were of Classical representation, and the definition of the space it opens up to us . As the light streams in from the right it brightly glints on the braid and golden hair of the female dwarf, who is nearest the light source.

While it is a literal reflection of the king and queen, Snyder writes it is the image of exemplary monarchs, a reflection of ideal character The painting is likely to have been influenced by Jan van Eyck s Arnolfini Portrait, of 1434. The Arnolfini Portrait also has a mirror positioned at the back of the pictorial space, reflecting two figures who would have the same angle of vision as does the viewer of Velázquez s painting; they are too small to identify, but it has been speculated that one may be intended as the artist himself, though he is not shown in the act of painting.

Because of these complexities, Las Meninas has been one of the most widely analysed works in Western painting. The painting shows a large room in the Madrid palace of King Philip IV of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot. The man in the doorway, however, is the vanishing point.