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This article is about the Diego Velázquez painting. For the Ihor Podolchak film, see Las Meninas (film).
Las Meninas |
Artist | Diego Velázquez |
Year | 1656 |
Type | Oil on canvas |
Dimensions | 318 cm × 276 cm (125.2 in × 108.7 in) |
Location | Museo del Prado, Madrid |
LasMeninas (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. 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. Because of these complexities, Las Meninas has been one of themost widely analyzed 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. Some look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others interact among themselves. The young InfantaMargarita is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas. Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand.In the background there is a mirror that reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. They appear to be placed outsidethe 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. The Baroque painter Luca Giordano said that it represents the "theology of painting", while in the 19th centurySir Thomas Lawrence called the work "the philosophy of art". 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".
Key to the people represented: see text
Las Meninas isset in Velázquez's studio in Philip IV's Alcázar palace in Madrid. The high-ceilinged room is presented, in the words of Silvio Gaggi, as "a simple box that could be divided into a perspective grid with a single vanishing point". In the centre of the foreground stands the Infanta Margarita (1). The five-year-old princess, who later married the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, was at this pointPhilip and Mariana's only surviving child. She is attended by two ladies-in-waiting, or meninas: doña Isabel de Velasco (2), who is poised to curtsy to the princess, and doña María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor (3), who kneels before Margarita, offering her a drink from a red cup, or bucaro, that she holds on a golden tray.To the right of the Infanta are two dwarfs:the achondroplastic German, Maribarbola (4) (Maria Barbola), and the Italian, Nicolas Pertusato (5), who playfully tries to rouse a sleepy mastiff with his foot. Behind them stands doña Marcela de Ulloa (6), the princess's chaperone, dressed in mourning and talking to an unidentified bodyguard (or guardadamas) (7).
Detail showing Don José Nieto Velázquez at the door in the background of the painting
To therear and at right stands Don José 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. Nieto is shown pausing, with his right knee bent and his feet on different steps. As the art critic Harriet Stone observes, it is uncertain whether he is "coming or going". He is rendered in silhouette and appears...