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Artwork Review: Las Meninas by Velazquez
Posted by Graphica on 12/11/2008 2:36:38 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
 
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A puzzle picture, this composition seems to be more than a group portrait of Spain's royal family. Many people are represented here: the Infanta Margarita certainly, and her maids of honour, but equally her two dwarfs. It is also a portrait of the queen’s steward on the back stairs, and of the attendants sketched in the middle. At the same time, unquestionably, it is a self-portrait of the artist painting Philip IV and Queen Mariana. Their heads are reflected in the mirror on the far wall; therefore, they may be supposed to stand where the observer is -- who also becomes part of the work!

Las Meninas - Velazquez

LAS MENINAS / THE ROYAL FAMILY (1656)
Oil on Canvas

The room in which the family has assembled for the portrait had belonged to the king's late son, Baltasar Carlos. Velâzquez used it as a studio, which may explain its bareness, and he has taken care to depict its architectural grandeur, especially the height of the ceiling in proportion to the frieze of figures below it. Dimly seen in the shadowed depths of the chamber are two paintings which actually hung there, copies of works by the Flemish artists Rubens and Jordaens. Dealing with the contests between Minerva and Arachne, Apollo and Marsyas, they represent mortal artists who dared to challenge divine creativity. Perhaps, Velâzquez’s essential concern here is with the creative process and the ambiguous relationship between reality and its representation in art.

 
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