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Monday, 31 August 2015

Painting of the Month (56) Aug 2015: Velázquez

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 Velásquezthe 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!

7 comments:

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I remember studying this artist, but the painting escapes me. It is lovely, and your post is so informative. I love that you bring us these works of art, Bazza, for us to learn and enjoy.

bazza said...

Hi Arleen. This is a subject that I love and researching it is like hobby for me! Thanks for your kind words.

Sherry Ellis said...

That is a fascinating painting. I would not have known the images of the king and queen were in the mirror if you hadn't pointed it out. Thanks for this informative post!

bazza said...

Hi Sherry. It's an endlessly interesting subject is looking into paintings!

Dixie@dcrelief said...

I've no idea why I've always felt this to be a scary painting. Can't seem to put a finger on it - but I shiver, like a cold wind swept past me. Ha!

bazza said...

Hi Dixie. It does have a kind of creepy quality but, for me, its technical brilliance far outweighs any other aspect! You do get a feeling of what it must have been like to be a part of that court. They are real people - it's not fictional in any way. I think Velásquez knew that he was the intellectual superior of any one in the room; just look at the expression on his face!

S Simmonds said...

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