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“Las Meninas” or “The Ladies-in-Waiting” by Diego Velázquez

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, from Prado in Google Earth

Las Meninas or The Ladies-in-Waiting by Diego Velázquez

“Las Meninas” or “The Ladies-in-Waiting” by Diego Velázquez is a complex and mysterious composition which when studied creates an ambiguous relationship between the audience and the various subjects in this painting. The complex arrangement of Las Meninas has made this painting one of the most analysed masterpieces in Western art.

“Las Meninas” depicts a room in The Royal Alcázar of Madrid which was a fortress located at the site of today’s Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain during the reign of King Philip IV of Spain. The figures in the painting are all real historical members of the Spanish court. The young Infanta Margaret Theresa is in the centre of her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Infanta was the title for a daughter of the ruling monarch of Spain, especially the eldest daughter who was not heir to the throne.

To the left, Velázquez, the artist of this masterpiece, portrays himself working on a large canvas and looks outwards, towards us. Just behind Infanta on the left, there is a mirror that reflects the king and queen either as reflections of them observing this scene or a representation of Velázquez’s painting that we can not see. To the rear through the door stands the queen’s chamberlain and head of the royal tapestry works.

Perspective is the secret to this masterpiece, it creates the feeling of depth. The use of light also creates different focal points as well as adding definition to the subjects. Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history, and many famous artists have studied this painting and referenced it. In 1957, Pablo Picasso painted a series of 58 interpretations of Las Meninas, which currently fill the Las Meninas room of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, Spain. Amongst the many famous artists who have referenced this masterpiece are Francisco Goya, John Singer Sargent and Salvador Dalí.

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Las Meninas

  • Title:                        The Ladies-in-Waiting or The Maids of Honour
  • Spanish:                  Las Meninas
  • Artist:                      Diego Velázquez
  • Year:                        1657
  • Medium:                 oil on canvas
  • Dimensions            318 × 276 cm (125.2 × 108.7 in)
  • Museum:                Prado Museum, Museo del Prado

Diego Velázquez

  • Name:                  Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
  • Born:                    1599 – Seville, Spain
  • Died:                    1660 (aged 61) – Madrid, Spain
  • Nationality:        Spanish
  • Movement:         Baroque
  • Notable works:

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“The habit doesn’t make the monk. – El hábito no hace al monje. “
Spanish Proverb

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Photo Credit: Diego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons