Las Meninas is a pictorial summary and a commentary on the essential mystery of the visual world, as well as on the ambiguity that results when different states or levels interact or are juxtaposed. The painting of The Royal Family also known as Las Meninas has always been regarded as an unsurpassable masterpiece. According to Palomino, it ‘was finished’ in 1656, and, while Velàzquez was painting it, the King, the Queen, and the Infantas Marìa Teresa and Margarita often came to watch him at work. In the painting, the painter himself is seen at the easel; the mirror on the rear wall reflects the half-length figures of Philip IV and Queen Mariana standing under a red curtain. The Infanta Margarita is in the center, attended by two Meninas, or maids of honor, Doña Isabel de Velasco and Doña Marìa Sarmiento, who curtsy as the latter offers her mistress a drink of water in a bùcaro—a reddish earthen vessel –on a tray. In the right foreground stand a female dwarf, Mari-Bàrbola, and a midget, Nicolàs de Pertusato, who playfully puts his foot on the back of the mastiff resting on the floor. Linked to this large group there is another formed by Doña Marcela de Ulloa, guardamujer de las damas de la Reina – attendant to the ladies-in-waiting—and an unidentified guardadamas, or escort to the same ladies. In the background, the aposentador, or Palace marshal, to the Queen, Don Josè Nieto Velàzquez, stands on the steps leading into the room from the lit-up door.
Las Meninas has three foci: The figure of the Infanta Margarita is the most luminous; the likeness of the Master himself is another; and the third is provided by the half-length images of the King and the Queen in the mirror on the rear wall. Velàzquez bui...
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...asting perfection and imperfection of the two little figures almost unavoidably becomes a metaphor of the social and natural order.
In these royal portraits, whatever the interpretation Velàzquez made or whatever emotional reaction he experienced he kept to himself. Royalty, courtliness of the most rigid character was his task to portray not individual personality. Through his practice of using pigment in short or long, thin or thick, apparently hasty and spontaneous but actually most skillfully calculated strokes, Velàzquez was the precursor of the modern practice or direct painting.
Brown, Jonathan. Velàzquez Painter and Courtier. New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1986.
Kleiner, Fred S., Mamiya, Christin J., Tansey Richard G. Gardner’s Art Through the
Ages, vol. II. Harcourt college Publishers; San Diego et al. 2001.
Lopez-Rey, Josè. Velàzquez Work and World. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York
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