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?