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: The Paradox
There is a peculiar strangeness (paradox) in Las Meninas. The spectator of the painting feels constantly disoriented and unable to retain for long his customary control over what he sees. For example, at one moment we feel neglected (as we stand behind of Velazquez’s easel) and at another we feel acknowledged by his gaze towards us. We can’t see what he is painting on the large canvas in front of him. He is leaning his head to the left of his canvas as if he is trying to see his model but there is no model behind his easel and we start wondering: “Where is he focusing his gaze?” “Is he looking at the spectator (us)?” We see next to him, Infanta Margarita with her ladies in waiting and the rest of her company but we are not sure that the painting is about her because she is looking in the same direction that Velazquez is looking (i.e., towards the spectator). She 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. We try to complete the puzzle of Las Meninas by assuming that Velazquez is painting the portrait of the royal couple who is standing behind his easel. What is Infanta Margarita’s importance in the painting? She has simply dropped in to see Velazquez at work. But as we look deeper we discover that Infanta Margarita is the center of attention and focus of Las Meninas. Las Meninas disorients the spectator by constantly imposing on him a shift of his gaze towards various directions and levels of attention. The disorientation of the spectator encourages his exploration of the painting in both a visual and intellectual manner. Las Meninas is constantly reminding us that the transformation of the “visible” world
into the “created” work of art is not a simple task. The paradox of Las Meninas becomes more intelligible if we consider that in Las Meninas, Velazquez shares with us his awesome feeling towards the mystery of life and the universe. His gigantic studio resembles the universe. The light which streams in from the right and has caught Infanta Margarita’s attention reminds us of life’s dependence on the light of the sun. Ultimately, I think that Las Meninas exhibits Velazquez’s enormous respect towards life and underlines life’s fragility in a totally unpredictable and mysterious (paradoxical) universe. We should take seriously the fact that Velazquez was interested in astronomy. At night he was exploring the sky with his own telescope pondering at the vastness and mysteries of the universe. “After Velazquez's death, five telescopes were found in his chamber, and we are told he had access to a tower for observing the heavens.” (Quoted in: http://www.evl.uic.edu/ chris/meninas/) As we begin to admire Velazquez’s expressionistic handling of paint, his exploitation of its materiality, and his tendencies toward abstraction we start to sense his close proximity to our Modern times. Over all, we can say that Las Meninas is an excellent example of how great works of art are made. Las Meninas allows the spectator to freely interact with the paintings various contradictory points of view and therefore offers him a fuller understanding of the painting’s emotional and intellectual depth.


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Velazquez - Las Meninas. The Museo del Prado in Madrid.
Fig. 8. Velazquez - Las Meninas. The Museo del Prado in Madrid.
George Konstantinidis