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|Diego Velásquez: Las Meninas, 1656, in The Prado, Madrid|
This is one of the most analysed paintings of all time and is often described as the most important work by Diego Velásquez, the leading painter of the Spanish Golden Age. It has some incredibly unusual aspects and things that, even today, seem to be remarkable.
The subject is the Infanta (a female daughter of a ruling King & Queen: a princess) of Philip IV of Spain and Queen Mariana. The Infanta is surrounded by her Maids of Honour, Las Meninas of the title, and a dwarf, there for her entertainment. Some of the subjects are looking out of the picture and others are interacting among themselves. The painter himself is on the left of the picture looking at his subject – the King and Queen who are standing where you, the viewer of the painting, are standing.
At the back of the scene their reflections can be seen in the mirror. Also at the rear of the room a mysterious man can be observed in the doorway; it’s not clear if he is coming or going. He helps to create depth in the scene by being placed at the ‘vanishing point’ where the lines of perspective meet.
Notice how the light falls on the Infanta while the two maids are half-lit and form a frame around her.
Incidentally, the red cross on Velasquez's chest is the Order of Santiago, which he did not receive during his lifetime; the King had it added to the painting as a posthumous honour three years after Velasquez had died. I love the way that the long-haired young boy at the lower right is shown trying to rouse the dog from his slumber with his foot. If you click the picture to enlarge it you can see details more clearly.
Listening to Albéniz's Suite española. I seem to be having a Spanish evening!