Diego Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain. When he was about thirteen years old he was apprenticed to a painter, Francisco Herrera, but the man was such a tyrant Diego only stayed with him for a year. He next went to Francisco Pacheco who was very kind and helpful to him. He worked for him five years, then married Pacheco’s daughter, Juana, who gave him two daughters.
With his family and hisfather in law, he visited Madrid where he was asked to paint the portrait of King Philip IV of Spain who was 18 years old. The Spanish king was so pleased, he asked Velazquez to move to Madrid with his family and work exclusively for the royal family. He was the favorite of the king’s four painters. The king had a chair in the artist’s studio so he could sit and watch him paint.
Velazquez also wasin charge of buying things for the royal family. He bought art work and furniture. He was in charge also of planning and decorating the palace for social events. The Maids of honors has two subjects. One is the subject the artist is painting and then we also see the main characters in the room. He painted several pictures of dwarfs such as the figures we see at the right of the picture. Thesewere the court jesters who entertained the king and his family.
The style of the paint is naturalistic. Some historians have been saying that this style it as anticipating the invention of the camera with its effect of capturing a snapshot of a moment in time and space. Also, there is a relationship between reality and representation.
In his interpretation, he constructs a triangular relationshipbetween the painter, the mirror image, and the shadowy man in the background. These three elements are linked because they are all representations of reality outside of the painting. Las Meninas becomes a sort of hall of mirrors, controlled by Velazquez.
We can see that Las Meninas depicts a behind the scenes look at Velazquez the royal painter at work. The painter has just stepped out frombehind the great canvas to study his model. The dwarf at the right of the painting, her hand on her breast. While the two Meninas respectfully look at the infant, the center of the gathering, the infant looks out of the surface of the painting. The court painter, the dwarf, and the countiers also seem to be looking out of the painting. Among the paintings in the studio is a mirror. We know it is amirror because its bright edges and colors contrast the dark and unlighted works surrounding it. In the mirror are two figures: the father and mother of the Infanta, King Philip IV and Queen Mariana.
The infanta Margarita, the daughter of the king and Queen of Spain, is made the most central figure group by placing her the closest to the center axis of the painting. She is placed just to the leftof center. At the same time the light streaming in from the window on the right falls on her more than the surrounding figures. The poses of the figures around her with their gestures call attention to their deference to her authority at the same time as acknowledging the presence of the viewer. Seven of the nine figures stare outward. The effect is that the viewer is part of the composition. Wetake on the role of both the observer and the observed. There is reciprocity between our looking and that of the characters in the painting. Without our presence their glances do not make sense. The role we play in this story is revealed by the mirror just over the Infanta’s right shoulder. Our role as the King or Queen of Spain explains the attention paid to our presence by the other figures.The mirror on the back wall with the reflection of the king and queen asserts the artist’s control over the illusion. Clearly the mirror does not reflect what is directly in front of it. We do not see the back of Velazquez or any of the other figures.
What is outside the painting gives meaning to what is inside. The king and Queen are the center of the scene. They are the central because of the...
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