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Diego Velazquez: Las Meninas

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on 6 May 2014

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Transcript of Diego Velazquez: Las Meninas

Velazquez's use of
Space / Perspective
Formal Analysis
Philip IV in Brown and Silver
First painting of the King that Velazquez did
Painted in 1623
After this painting all other portraits of the King were withdrawn from circulation
King Philip had his own chair at Velazquez's studio and often watched him work
Finally the mirror located on the back wall, reflects the figures of the monarchs Philip IV and Mariana of Austria.
Las Meninas
c. 1656. 10.4 ft X 9 ft
Born June 6th, 1599 in Seville, Spain
At age 11 he became an apprentice to Francisco Pacheco
Married his teachers daughter, Juana Pacheco. They had two children together
In 1624 he became the new royal painter for King Philip IV
He died August 6th, 1660
The little girl at the painting's center is the 5-year-old Infanta Margarita of Spain, the most recent heir to king Phillip IV.

A decade earlier, the king had lost his only son and his first wife, so this child is proof of the fertility of his new bride, his niece Mariana of Austria. When they married, he was 51 and she was 15 (gross!), and she had once been the intended of the dead prince. The little Infanta was one more heir to guarantee the royal line, and an obviously worthy subject for a painting.

Margarita was also a valuable pawn in the diplomatic marriage game, which was how Spain built its empire and forged alliances. In 21st-century terms, the Infanta was the equivalent of a major arms or trade deal.
Historical Information
Diego Velazquez: Las Meninas
Head of a Girl c.1618. Chalk Drawing. 6 in X 5 in
Early Works...
Old Woman Frying Eggs c. 1618. Oil on canvas. 47 in X 40 in
Peasants at the Table c. 1620. Oil on canvas. 44 in x 39 in
The subjects and patrons...
Two meninas, or maids of honor, are attending the princess. The one on the left, María Agustina Sarmiento, is kneeling down next to the princess, offering her a drink. The second one to the right of the princess is Isabel de Velasco.
On the far right, there are two dwarfs, identified as Mari Barbola and Nicolás Pertusato. In the middle ground, behind Isabel de Velasco and the dwarfs, stands Marcela de Ullo, the chaperone, next to an unidentified bodyguard. In the background, there is a man in the open door, identified as José de Nieto, the Queen's chamberlain
The man standing in front of the canvas, wearing courtly attire and holding a brush and a palette, is Velázquez himself.
Baroque artists largely gave up the Renissance convention of centralizing a single subject in light
Multiple light sources to enhance areas and focus your attention there
Four light sources
Natural spacing of figures
Vanishing point is right behind the man in the door's hand
Three focal points - The Infanta, Diego Velazquez himself, and the reflection of King Philip IV and Queen Mariana
What is Velazquez painting?
The Infanta?
King Philip and Queen Mariana?
A self portrait?
Is The Infanta being painted?
Is Velazquez painting her and the meninas?

Or is it something else...?
Are the King and Queen being painted?
The majority of everyone is focused on the viewers side.
The only people who could capture that kind of attention are the King and Queen.
Or are they visiting The Infanta getting her portrait done?
If the King and Queen are the subjects why are they only reflected in the mirror?
Is the mirror reflecting the King and Queen from the viewers position or a painting of the King and Queen on Velazquez's huge easel?
In 2008 David Stork created a 3D image of Las Meninas
This allows us to see what Velazquez would have possibly seen
This recreation led him to discover that the easel and its canvas block the view of the mirror to anyone standing directly before it: The royal couple could never have used it to see their own faces
As we look at Las Meninas, we're not in the position of the King and Queen. We can only be in the position of some big mirror that Velazquez was using to study himself, with the Infanta and everyone else looking on from the side
So it turns out, Diego Velazquez had to be painting a self portrait
Why this composition?
Wanted his entire painting to read as a celebration of his neutral view from that sideline, taking in the passing world with an impartial eye
Wanted to create a real life moment in a painting, much like his live portrait sketches
Wanted to show that creating art was a high craft
Mckim-Smith, Gridley, Greta Anderson-Bergdoll, and Richard Newman. Examining Velazquez. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
"Velázquez's Las Meninas." Velázquez's Las Meninas. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.
Craven, Thomas. A Treasury of Art Masterpieces, from the Renaissance to the Present Day. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1939. Print.
Crenshaw, Paul, Rebecca Tucker, and Alexandra Bonfante-Warren. Discovering the Great Masters: The Art Lover's Guide to Understanding Symbols in Paintings. New York, NY: Universe, 2009. Print.
Gopnik, Blake. "The Velazquez Painting 'Las Meninas': An Encyclopedia of Artistic Greatness." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.
Rivera, Natalia. "Las Meninas." Las Meninas. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.
Zaczek, Ian. Great Paintings. Ed. Ian Chilvers. Comp. Karen Hosack Janes. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2011. Print.

Velazquez prefers vagueness
Brushwork highlights and distinguishes various textures
Often used long handled brushes
The mirror
Just another painting
Light brought to it because Velazquez wanted to pay tribute to the King and Queen
Give the sense of a unique family portrait
If its not a mirror then what is it?
Full transcript