Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour), is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez. The work's complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted. Because of these complexities, Las Meninas has been one of the most widely analysed works in Western painting.
Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. The Baroque painter Luca Giordano said that it represents the "theology of painting", while in the 19th century Sir Thomas Lawrence called the work "the philosophy of art". More recently, it has been described as "Velázquez's supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting".
Key to the people represented (see text bellow)
List of People Depicted:
- Infanta Margarita, the five-year-old princess, who later married the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, was at this point Philip and Mariana's only surviving childDetail showing Philip IV's daughter, the Infanta Margarita.
- Doña Isabel de Velasco, who is poised to curtsy to the princess.
- Doña María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor, who kneels before Margarita, offering her a drink from a red cup, or bucaro, that she holds on a golden tray.
- Maria Barbola, a German dwarf.
- Nicolas Pertusato, an Italian dwarf who playfully tries to rouse a sleeping mastiff with his foot.
- Doña Marcela de Ulloa, the princess's chaperone, dressed in mourning.
- Unidentified bodyguard.
- Don José Nieto Velázquez, the queen's chamberlain during the 1650s, and the head of the royal tapestry works who may have been a relative of the artist.
- Velázquez himself, looking outward past a large canvas supported by an easel. On his chest is the red cross of the Order of Santiago, which he did not receive until 1659, three years after the painting was completed.
- King Philip IV, appears next to his queen, reflected on a mirror on the wall.
- Queen Mariana of Austria.
A common assumption is that the reflection shows the couple in the pose they are holding for Velázquez as he paints them, while their daughter watches; and that the painting therefore shows their view of the scene.
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View the high resolution Diego Velázquez gallery at the ARC Museum.