Velazquez- Las Meninas: Analysis and Interpretation
Diego Velazquez
Velazquez's selfportrait
Velazquez’s Las Meninas is a portrait of Infanta Margarita, the daughter of King Philip IV. This article focuses on the way Velazquez painted Infanta Margarita’s psychological perplexity in front of the large window of his studio. It also focuses on Infanta Margarita’s beauty, her intelligence, and above all her interest in the beauty of the visible world!
Las Meninas
By Diego Velazquez

Introduction

Velazquez’s Las Meninas is a 1656 painting, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Las Meninas (Spanish for the Maids of Honor) is a portrait of Infanta Margarita, the daughter of King Philip IV, and his second wife Mariana of Austria. The painting's complex and enigmatic composition is an excellent example of how great works of art are made.

Las Meninas allows the spectator to freely interact with the painting’s various contradictory points of view and therefore offers him a fuller understanding of the painting’s emotional and intellectual depth.
Infanta Margarita has dropped in to see Velazquez at work. She stops right next to him, at the center of the foreground of the painting, but she seems perplexed. Velazquez spotted Infanta Margarita’s psychological perplexity in front of the large window of his studio and analyzed her behavior. Picasso’s recreation of Las Meninas (1957) portrayed Infanta Margarita’s perplexity in a highly expressionistic and masterful manner.

There is a peculiar strangeness (paradox) in Las Meninas. Infanta Margarita is definitely not posing for her portrait. Next we see that the King and the Queen are reflected in the back wall mirror of his studio. Therefore we assume that Velazquez is painting the portrait of the royal couple who is standing behind his easel. But as we look deeper we discover that Infanta Margarita is the center of attention and focus of Las Meninas.

Velazquez’s technique of painting was inspired by Baroque. Baroque is the period and the style that used exaggerated motion in order to produce drama and tension in
sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music. Velazquez’s expressionistic handling of paint, his exploitation of its materiality, and his tendencies toward abstraction surpassed the boundaries of Baroque and therefore by looking deeper in his paintings we start to sense his close proximity to our Modern times.


Diego Velazquez - Biography

The Spanish painter Diego Velazquez (June 6, 1599 - August 6, 1660) at the age of 25 was hired by Spain’s king (Philip IV) and became his favorite court painter.
In the early 1650s the king offered Velázquez the Pieza Principal ("main room") which was serving as the palace museum, to use as his studio. In this studio Velazquez painted Las Meninas. Philip IV had his own chair in the studio and would often sit and watch Velázquez at work.

In February 1651, Velazquez was appointed palace chamberlain (aposentador mayor del palacio). The post brought him status and material reward, but its duties made heavy demands on his time. During the remaining eight years of his life, he painted only a few works, mostly portraits of the royal family. When he painted Las Meninas, (1656) he had been with the royal household for 33 years.

The art-loving king had a very strong friendship with the painter. After Velázquez's death (August 6, 1660), he wrote: "I am crushed", in the margin of a memorandum on the choice of his successor (Quoted in: Canaday, John, 1972. Baroque Painters (First published in 1969, in The Lives of the Painters). New York: Norton Library).


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Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas  1656. Museo del Prado, Madrid
Fig. 1. Diego Velazquez- Las Meninas, 1656. Museo del Prado, Madrid.
Diego Velazquez - Las Meninas
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46 x 61 cm
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This art print was created using a sophisticated digital printer. The Giclee printing process delivers a fine stream of archival ink on archival paper, resulting in vivid, pure color and exceptional detail that is suitable for museum or gallery display. It can be framed or wood mounted.
Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas  1656. Museo del Prado, Madrid
Las Meninas
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