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

Velazquez - Las Meninas, detail of Infanta_Margarita Picasso Infanta Margarita
Fig. 5. Velazquez Las Meninas
Detail of Infanta Margarita.
Fig. 6. Picasso Las Meninas:
Infante Margarita
, buste, d'apres Velasquez, 20 August 1957.
Las Meninas - Picasso
Following Svetlana Alpers’s suggestion, let’s say that 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. Menina doña María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor (3), who kneels before Infanta Margarita, offers her a drink from a red cup that she holds on a golden tray. Margarita raises her right hand towards the red cup but at the same time her face is turned in the opposite direction, towards the sunlight which is coming through the large window to the right. Even though her face is turned towards the large window, her eyes are turned toward her parents who are presumably standing at some distance in front of her.
Margarita is polite towards her maids of honor, who constantly take care of her and sometimes, maybe, their love and preoccupation with her is a little exaggerated. She adores the sunlight and immediately turns her face towards its direction but she is also respectful towards her parents and therefore she turns her eyes towards them. But her preoccupation with the sun light is so intense that even though she looks at her parents her head is still turned towards the sun light! Picasso’s portrayal of Infanta Margarita (fig. 6) captured her perplexity at the moment she walked in Velazquez’s studio in α highly expressionistic and masterful way.
Picasso’s Las Meninas is a series of 58 paintings that Pablo Picasso painted in 1957 by recreating several times Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. The suite is fully preserved at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona and is the only complete series of the artist that remains together. Picasso gave this series to the museum in Barcelona in May 1968, in memory of Jaume Sabartés, who died the same year. In Picasso’s own words, recollected by Sabartés in the book L’ atelier de Picasso published in 1952, his intention was not to create a copy or a variation of Velazquez’s Las Meninas but to create his own unique Meninas. Nevertheless we should not misinterpret his intentions. Picasso’s Las Meninas is not a selfish and entirely subjective series of works of art. On the contrary Picasso attempted an in depth analysis of Velazquez’s Las Meninas. By examining his portrait of Infanta Margarita (Fig. 6) we can easily see how Picasso attempted to reconstruct Infanta Margarita’s psychological perplexity in a very unique way. There are many different contradictory feelings and ideas in her mind. We also see her effort to balance them all at once. The geometric shapes (square, triangle, etc) that shape her figure are indicative of this effort. Picasso twisted Infanta Margarita’s face (creating a frontal and a profile view of her face at the same time) in order to show how difficult it was for the young princess to balance her contradictory feelings and
emotions between traditional etiquette and controlled behavior (frontal view) on the one hand and playfulness (profile view: her look towards the sunlight) on the other.

Margarita looks puzzled, she is definitely having a good time, but her attitude is strictly dictated by etiquette in the manner that is most suitable for a princess. She is not surprised by the unexpected entrance of her parents, the king and queen as has been suggested by Svetlana Alpers. Nothing in the scene suggests this surprise entrance. She simply seems excited and overpowered by many different things. She is impressed by Velazquez’s huge studio covered by wonderful paintings. She enjoys the love and care of her maids of honor. But even though she is very young (5 years old) she can’t behave just like any other young child of her age. She must always show restrain and she is very good at that. Out of all the excited things she experienced in Velazquez’s studio, the thing that captivated her mind most was the power of the sun light coming through the big window to the right. Of course, she had seen sun light before but this day was different: This was her lucky day because she discovered that the beauty of the visible world depends on the amusing interplay between light and shadow.


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George Konstantinidis