Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Art Appreciation

I thought I'd add a discussion of famous paintings to the TSFKA cultural line up. On my recent travels, I had the pleasure of wandering through two of the best art museums in continental Europe – the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, and the Louvre in Paris, France. Although the Louvre was impressive in size and the volume of works it contained, I preferred the Prado. I felt it had a good range of works by a large range of artists over a long period, and it was also just the right size. It was large enough to spend most of a day in, but small enough that you weren't entirely exhausted after the first floor. In fact, although I can say I have been to the Louvre, I can't say I actually saw everything. My feet were so sore after the ground level and Level 1, that I skipped the French sculpture section and went straight upstairs to the section fitted out as the palace it once was. I then met up with some Canadians I had met the day before at the Catacombs, and since they had already seen Level 2 (the "good" level), we went up to Level 3 for a quick look. They then left to find some food, and I went back to Level 2. However, by this stage, my feet and I were both utterly exhausted, and so I went on a mad rush through Level 2, stopping only to admire the paintings I recognised, fighting my way through to see the Mona Lisa, and then returning to my apartment across the road. So the next time I'm in Paris, I will go to the Louvre and start with Level 2 and then work out from there, and I encourage you to do the same!

Anyway, enough of that. This painting is one I saw at the Museo del Prado. It is by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599 - 1660), and was painted in 1656. Las Meninas is considered Velázquez' masterpiece, and anticipated the invention of the camera with its unusual effect of capturing a moment in time. The presence of what appears to be a mirror in the background with a reflection of the King and Queen of Spain seems to suggest the viewer is one of the royal couple, having their portrait painted while their daughter, the Infanta Margarita, is looking on. The fact that most of the eyes in the painting are focused towards the viewer give further credence to this theory, as everyone in the room would be paying the proper attention to the King and Queen.

Velázquez gave his painting even more reality by choosing to paint the main subject, the Infanta Margarita, slightly off centre (both horizontally and vertically), and with the orthogonals (or vanishing point of the perspective) converging in the doorway behind her, rather than on top of her head (as, for instance, in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, where all the lines converge to a point on Jesus' head). This gives the painting an air of spontaneity and informality.

Interestingly, this painting contains the only known double portrait of the royal couple painted by Velázquez, who was court painter for King Philip IV. Further, it is said the King himself painted the red cross of the Order of Santiago on Velazquez's breast after his death, as he didn't attain this honour until 3 years after Las Meninas was completed. The painting was damaged in a fire in 1734, and then court painter de Miranda restored it and cut it down on both the left and right sides.



In 1957, Picasso painted a series of interpretations of Las Meninas and its subjects. Of the 58 paintings, this one is arguably the closest to the original:



This is another which is quite interesting:



I also quite like this interpretation of the Infanta:



You might also be interested to know that Velázquez had a thing for painting dwarves! The presence of the dwarf in Las Meninas suggests they held positions in the Spanish royal court. Other notable paintings of dwarves include The Dwarf Sebastian de Morra (at the Prado), and The Dwarf Francisco Lezcano, called "El Nino de Vallecas" (also at the Prado).

Any opinions on the pieces?

42 comments:

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Which museum had the better cafe?

Puss In Boots said...

I have no idea, Ramon. I was on a very strict budget and couldn't afford such fancy food.

Mr E Discharge said...

I'm perplexed. Conflicted.

On one hand, I find it totally ludicrous to suggest that the Prado is a better Museum than La louvre on the basis that the former is "just the right size", while on the other hand, I hold a firm, unshakable belief that "Fun Sized Mars Bars" are the only way to go.

Troubling....

Fad MD said...

I really liked the Uffizi, but that was before half of it burned down.

Puss In Boots said...

Well, I didn't say it was better. Just that I preferred it. Besides, there were more works there that I liked than at the Louvre. I preferred the Peter Paul Rubens works there than the ones held at the Louvre, too.

Melba said...

I loved the Uffizzi too, even after it burned down. There is a painting there that captured my heart, by someone I'd never heard of. I tried to research him/the painting on google, but failed. I've forgotten who/what it was, it's written on a scrap of paper that will be carefully filed away somewhere.

I like the first painting. If that is the reflection of the King and Queen in the mirror, as they are having their portrait done, then they would be in the same position as the viewer, and the children and dwarf would be directing their eyes at them. There's nowhere else in the room they could be, and so the painter is also looking at them.

Perseus said...

Jeez, that fat girl on the bottom right is ugly. The` Picasso cubist version of her was better looking.

Melba said...

Funny, my eye went straight to her as well and I thought exactly the same thing. Then I saw the word "dwarf".

Perseus said...

Oh, it's not a young girl, it's a dwarf. I see.

But my comment stands.

Dwarves freak me out.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I suspect that's the difference between you and me, Puss.

Great Art I can live without but a Great Sandwich is a joy forever.

Puss In Boots said...

You must have missed the last paragraph, Pers. He had a thing for painting dwarves. Much like Herri Met de Bles and his owls, which will delight Ramon.

Puss In Boots said...

Oh, in any normal situation, I would have been sampling the delights of both cafes. However, I was down to my last couple of thousand and had to stretch it out until I got home. I was already living on 2 minute noodles when I got to Europe, and in order to afford all of the other things I wanted to see, I had to forgo my usual foodie behaviour. Although I did eat in a fabulous restaurant on my last night in Paris. I had escargot for entree, and then duck confit for main. I was so full I couldn't even fit dessert in.

Boogeyman said...

Paintings of dwarves were basically the 17th century version of midget pr0n.

Cath said...

Most paintings (I feel) are meant to portray the subject MORE attractive than they are in reality. Putting that in perspective with the dwarf... she must have been one seriously distressing looking lady!

And doesn't David Lynch have a thing for dwarves as well?

Pepsi said...

The Cafe at the Prado has better coffee than the one at the Lourve, and its cheaper.

patchouligirl said...

I just don't like Picasso no matter how hard I try to. I can see he made an important contribution to art but I find his paintings disturbing to look at. I love the Velázquez though, so much to look at that even the dwarf doesn't bother me. I've never been to either gallery but I did see the Uffizi and the Vatican museum in 2001. I also got art numbness at the Vatican museum.

In Italy, it wasn't a painting that made my heart stop - it was a building. I'll never forget the moment I encountered the Pantheon in Rome, I could actually hear it and buildings aren't supposed to do that.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Thank you Pepsi.

Good point, well made.

Cath said...

Patchouli... I hear what you say about the Pantheon - divine. Although I must say that Picasso is one artist I do actually "get". But art is one of those things that is hard to pin down. It is indescribable sometimes how some works just hit you and others leave you uninspired - no matter how good they might be considered to be.

Puss In Boots said...

Really, patch? I thought the Pantheon was a disappointment. I didn't get the love.

Now, the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona I got. I didn't understand before I saw them in real life, and wondered what everyone was going on about them for, but seeing them in real life was just wow! I am hooked. I can't wait to see what La Sagrada Familia looks like when it's finished.

I was also very impressed by many other buildings in Rome, but I just didn't see what all the fuss was about with the Pantheon.

Perseus said...

When I was in Rome all I cared about was the coffee, pizza and hot chicks. Besides, living in Athens for a couple of years tainted my appreciation of old buildings. The Spanish steps?Bah! Why, that's modern architecture! I was into ruins.

I never went to France. I was scared I'd be forced to eat a chocolate croissant.

Puss In Boots said...

Pers, did you go to Sicily? They have some amazing Greek ruins there. The theatre in Syracuse dates to 5th century BC, and the valley of the temples in Agrigento has similar dated ruins. I loved it. They were the first real ruins I saw when I got to Europe.

squib said...

Puss, yesterday I returned from abroad where I visited the Salt Gallery on Rottnest Island. It had two small rooms hung with photos of frogs and it took two minutes to see everything twice

(This was the highlight of our holiday that included BigSquib breaking her ankle on the tennis courts)

patchouligirl said...

Totally agree on Gaudi Puss. I've never seen his buildings in real life but saw a doco on his work and went out and bought a book on him. I love Guell palace and park, what a visionary.

The Pantheon is special because of its domed ceiling design with the hole in the roof but it wasn't the architecture that impressed me.

You will think I'm mad and I'm not usually sensitive to such things, but when I first saw that building I heard a sound like an orchestra of lower pitch instruments droning one note. That is the nearest I can describe the sound. I was immediately struck by the immense age of the Pantheon, it was as if the energy of its ancient past was still resonating from it.

Puss In Boots said...

No, I don't think you're mad. I just don't get it. I mean, the ceiling was an architectual wonder, but the building just did nothing for me. When I got to it, I sort of wondered if I had the right place, because it wasn't as inspiring as I thought it was going to be.

Plus, I've seen older stuff (the aforementioned Greek ruins), so perhaps that's why I didn't enjoy it so much.

And maybe the taint from the Catholics was washing over me and spoiling my feelings!

Puss In Boots said...

Sounds like a great holiday, Squib!

Looks like things do come in 3s. First my boy breaks his ankle, then Pers' dad, and now BigSquib!

squib said...

And the one common factor? TSFKA

*cue spooky music*

patchouligirl said...

Louche has had a girl!

Boogeyman said...

Typical!

She's off the internets for 5 minutes and she pops out a baby.

Let this be a warning to any of you lot thinking about stepping away from the keyboard.

wari lasi said...

Although the Louvre was impressive in size and the volume of works it contained, I preferred the Prado

I test drove a Prado, but in the end went for the Land Cruiser. A more solid vehicle and I figured the re-sale vale would be better.

wari lasi said...

Good work Louche. I trust mother and baby are doing well?

patchouligirl said...

She's probably a bit preoccupied so I'll say yes for her. Baby is gorgeous, both are fine.

Melba said...

Squib, my girl also broke her ankle on a tennis court.

Was it badly maintained en-tous-cas?

Was she doing a ballet pirouette crossed with a netball pivot?

Was it a triplane fracture through the growth plates?

Nasty stuff, I really hope she's ok. And you do have to be careful of the ankles with the growth plates. Mine had to be monitored closely by orthopaedic surgeons and everything.

Perseus said...

Congratulations to Louche, and may her offspring grow to be a well-adjusted, happy and bright Richmond supporter. Louche - shall I buy your daughter a membership?

Fad MD said...

well-adjusted, happy and bright Richmond supporter

Because they haven't had one yet and they want to get one up over the Pies.

squib said...

Thanks Melba, en-tous-what?

All I know is it's an 'un-displaced lateral malleolus' and she hasn't seen a doctor yet as we are waiting for a letter from the hospital to make an appointment, which strikes me as rather odd

I didn't see what happened as I was thrashing MrSquib on the other court but suddenly I noticed BS sitting in a puddle looking a bit distressed

She was wearing crocs - not enough traction methinks

Melba said...

En-tous-cas = "in any case" =
"all weather" meaning that gravelly, slippery red stuff on some older tennis courts.

It's slippery.

It's broken you say? And waiting for a doctor?

What the fuck?

By the way, I am wearing the Little Red Riding Hood hair button and I Love It.

No one else has one, and I love that, so thanks again.

squib said...

A doctor saw it via email

They x-rayed it on the island and emailed (or faxed?) it to the mainland where a doctor looked at it and said it was broken. Then the nurse put it in a temporary cast, which it needs in the first few days anyway because of swelling

Glad you like the button

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Physical activity!?

When will people learn?

Melba said...

Oh ok then, thanks squib for filling me in. I've been worried about your little squib. Hope she is comfortable.

When you say island, were you on holiday or have I not been reading properly? Do you live on an island?

squib said...

We were on Rottnest Island on a holiday. She doing okay but getting cabin fever as both her school and our house have stairs like an Escher calendar. She can't go to school or move far at home

Melba said...

Oh the poor possum. Many get well wishes to her from over here.

squib said...

Thanks Melba