(Spanish for The Maids
of Honour) is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of
the Spanish Golden Age, in the
Prado in Madrid.
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,
has been one of the most widely analysed works
in Western painting
shows a large room in the Madrid palace of
King Philip IV of Spain
presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court,
captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as
if in a snapshot
figures look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others
interact among themselves. The young Infanta Margarita
is surrounded by
her entourage of maids of honour
, bodyguard, two dwarfs
and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at
a large canvas. Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial
space to where a viewer of the painting would stand. A mirror hangs
in the background and reflects the upper bodies of the king and
queen. The royal couple appear to be placed outside the picture
space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some
scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the
painting Velázquez is shown working on.
has long been recognised as one of the most
important paintings in Western art
. 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".
Court of Philip IV
In 17th-century Spain, painters rarely enjoyed high social status.
Painting was regarded as a craft, not an art such as poetry or
music. Nonetheless, Velázquez worked his way up through the ranks
of the court of Philip IV
and in February 1651 was appointed palace chamberlain
mayor del palacio
). The post brought him status and material
reward, but its duties made heavy demands on his time. During the
remaining eight years of his life, he painted only a few works,
mostly portraits of the royal family. When he painted Las
, he had been with the royal household for 33
Philip IV's first wife, Elizabeth of France
, died in
1644; and their only son, Baltasar Carlos
two years later. Lacking an heir, Philip married Mariana of Austria
in 1649, and Margarita
(1651–1673) was their first child, and their only one at the time
of the painting. Subsequently, she had a short-lived brother
(1657–1661), and then Charles
(1661–1700) arrived, who succeeded to the throne as Charles II
at the age of four. Velázquez painted portraits of Mariana and her
children, and although Philip himself resisted being portrayed in
his old age he did allow Velázquez to include him in Las
. In the early 1650s he gave Velázquez the Pieza
Principal ("main room") of the late Baltasar Carlos's living
quarters, by then serving as the palace museum, to use as his
studio. It is here that Las Meninas
is set. Philip had his
own chair in the studio and would often sit and watch Velázquez at
work. Although constrained by rigid etiquette, the art-loving king
seems to have had an unusually close relationship with the painter.
After Velázquez's death, he wrote "I am crushed" in the margin of a
memorandum on the choice of his successor.
During the 1640s and 1650s, Velázquez served as both court painter
of Philip IV's expanding
collection of European art. He seems to have been given an unusual
degree of freedom in the role. He supervised the decoration and
interior design of the rooms holding the most valued paintings,
adding mirrors, statues, and tapestries. He was also responsible
for the sourcing, attribution, hanging, and inventory of many of
the Spanish king's paintings. By the early 1650s, Velázquez was
widely respected in Spain as a connoisseur. Much of the collection
of the Prado today—including works by Titian
, and Rubens
—was acquired and assembled under
Provenance and condition of painting
The painting was referred to in the earliest inventories as La
("The Family"). A detailed description of Las
, to which we owe the identification of several of the
figures, was published by Antonio
("the Giorgio Vasari
the Spanish Golden Age") in 1724. Examination under infrared
, that is, there are
traces of earlier working that the artist himself later altered.
For example, at first Velázquez's own head inclined to his right
rather than his left.
The painting has been cut down on both the left and right sides. It
was damaged in the fire that completely destroyed the Alcázar in
1734, and was restored by court painter Juan García de Miranda
(1677–1749). The left cheek of the Infanta was almost completely
repainted to compensate for a substantial loss of pigment. After
its rescue from the fire, the painting was inventoried as part of
the royal collection in 1747–48, and the Infanta was misidentified
as María Teresa, Margarita's half-sister, an error that was
repeated when the painting was inventoried at the new Madrid Royal
Palace in 1772. A 1794 inventory reverted to a version of the
earlier title, The Family of Philip IV
, which was
repeated in the inventory records of 1814. The painting entered the
collection of the Museo del Prado on its foundation in 1819. In
1843, the Prado catalogue listed the work for the first time as
In recent years, the picture has suffered a loss of texture and
hue. Due to exposure to pollution and crowds of visitors, the
once-vivid contrasts between blue and white pigments in the
costumes of the meninas
have faded. It was last cleaned in
1984 under the supervision of the American conservator John
Brealey, due to a "yellow veil" of dust that had gathered since the
previous restoration in the 19th century. The cleaning provoked,
according to the art historian Federico
, "furious protests, not because the picture had been
damaged in any way, but because it looked different". However, in
the opinion of López-Rey, the "restoration was impeccable". Due to
its size, importance, and value, the painting is not lent out for
Key to the people represented: see
is set in Velázquez's studio in
Philip IV's Alcázar palace
Madrid. The high-ceilinged room is presented, in the words of
Silvio Gaggi, as "a simple box that could be divided into a
perspective grid with a single vanishing point". In the centre of
the foreground stands the Infanta Margarita
five-year-old princess, who later married the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I
, was at this
point Philip and Mariana's only surviving child. She is attended by
: doña Isabel de Velasco (2), who is poised to
curtsy to the princess, and doña María Agustina Sarmiento de
Sotomayor (3), who kneels before Margarita, offering her a
drink from a red cup, or bucaro
, that she holds on a
golden tray. To the right of the Infanta are two dwarfs: the
(4) (Maria Barbola), and the Italian, Nicolas Pertusato (5),
who playfully tries to rouse a sleeping mastiff
with his foot. Behind them stands
doña Marcela de Ulloa (6), the princess's chaperone, dressed
in mourning and talking to an unidentified bodyguard (or
Detail showing Don José Nieto
Velázquez at the door in the background of the painting
To the rear and at right stands Don José Nieto
Velázquez (8)—the queen's chamberlain during the 1650s, and
the head of the royal tapestry
may have been a relative of the artist. Nieto is shown pausing,
with his right knee bent and his feet on different steps. As the
art critic Harriet Stone observes, we cannot be sure whether he is
"coming or going". He is rendered in silhouette and appears to hold
open a curtain on a short flight of stairs, with an unclear wall or
space behind. Both this backlight and the open doorway reveal space
behind: in the words of the art historian Analisa Leppanen, they
lure "our eyes inescapably into the depths". The royal couple's
reflection pushes in the opposite direction, forward into the
picture space. The vanishing point
of the perspective
is in the
doorway, as can be shown by extending the line of the meeting of
wall and ceiling on the right. Nieto is seen only by the king and
queen, who share the viewer's point of view, and not by the figures
in the foreground.
Velázquez himself (9) is pictured to the left of the scene,
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.
According to Palomino, Philip ordered this to be added after
Velázquez's death, "and some say that his Majesty himself painted
it". From the painter's belt hang the symbolic keys of his court
A mirror on the back wall reflects the upper bodies and heads of
two figures identified from other paintings, and by Palomino, as
King Philip IV (10) and his queen, Mariana (11). The
most 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.
Of the nine figures depicted, five are looking directly out at the
royal couple, or the viewer. Their glances, along with the king and
queen's reflection, affirm the royal couple's presence outside the
painted space. Alternatively, the art historian H. W. Janson
suggests that the image of the king and
queen is a reflection from Velázquez's canvas, the front of which
is obscured from the viewer. Other writers say the canvas Velázquez
is painting is unusually large for a portrait by Velázquez, and is
about the same size as Las Meninas
. Las Meninas
contains the only known double portrait of the royal couple painted
The point of view of the picture is approximately that of the royal
couple, though this has been widely debated. Many critics suppose
that the scene is viewed by the king and queen as they pose for a
double portrait, while the Infanta and her companions are present
to relieve the boredom. Others speculate that Velázquez represents
himself painting the Infanta Margarita. No single theory has found
The back wall of the room, which is in shadow, is hung with rows of
paintings, including one of a series of scenes from Ovid
by Peter Paul Rubens
, and copies, by
Velázquez's son-in-law and principal assistant Juan del Mazo
, of works
by Jacob Jordaens
. The paintings are
shown in the exact positions recorded in an inventory taken around
this time. The wall to the right is hung with a grid of eight
smaller paintings, visible mainly as frames owing to their angle
from the viewer. They can be identified from the inventory as more
Mazo copies of paintings from the Rubens Ovid series, though only
two of the subjects can be seen.
The painted surface is divided into quarters horizontally and
sevenths vertically; this grid is used to organise the elaborate
grouping of characters, and was a common device at the time.
Velázquez presents nine figures—eleven if the king and queen's
reflected images are included—yet they occupy only the lower half
of the canvas.
The added complexity of this picture is that the division into
seven is applied not only to the pictorial surface of the
composition, but also to its depth. The viewer looks into a scene
which is of seven layers deep, arranged at irregular intervals,
like a stage-set. The first is defined by the canvas that projects
into the left side of the painting, and on the right, the figures
of the large dog and male dwarf. The second zone of the composition
contains the figures of the Infanta and her maids and dwarf. The
third zone is occupied by the artist himself with the chaperone and
guard set slightly behind him, the fourth zone being defined by the
plane of the rear wall with its rows of paintings. Through the door
the figure of Nieto stands, in the fifth zone. The sixth zone is
located in the depth of the mirror on the rear wall, and, like all
mirror images, tends in two directions, so that it seems to project
the painting itself outward into the space of the viewer, thus
creating a seventh zone in which both the viewer and the king and
According to López-Rey, the painting has three focal points: the
Infanta Margarita, the self-portrait, and the half-length reflected
images of Philip IV and Queen Mariana. In 1960, the art
historian Kenneth Clark
made the point
that the success of the composition is a result first and foremost
of the accurate handling of light and shade:
Depth and dimension are rendered by the use of linear perspective,
by the overlapping of the layers of shapes, and in particular, as
stated by Clark, through the use of tone. This compositional
element operates within the picture in a number of ways. First,
there is the appearance of natural light within the painted room
and beyond it. The pictorial space in the midground and foreground
is lit from two sources: by thin shafts of light from the open
door, and by broad streams coming through the window to the right.
The 20th-century French
and cultural critic Michel Foucault
observed that the light from
the window illuminates both the studio foreground and the
unrepresented area in front of it, in which the king, the queen,
and the viewer are presumed to be situated.
Velázquez uses this light not only to add volume and definition to
each form but also to define the focal points of the painting. As
the light streams in from the right it brightly glints on the braid
and golden hair of the female dwarf, who is nearest the light
source. But because her face is turned from the light, and in
shadow, its tonality does not make it a point of particular
interest. Similarly, the light glances obliquely on the cheek of
the lady-in-waiting near her, but not on her facial features. Much
of her lightly coloured dress is dimmed by shadow. The Infanta,
however, stands in full illumination, and with her face turned
towards the light source, even though her gaze is not. Her face is
framed by the pale gossamer of her hair, setting her apart from
everything else in the picture. The light models the volumetric
geometry of her form, defining the conic nature of a small torso
bound rigidly into a corset and stiffened bodice, and the panniered
skirt extending around her like an oval candy-box, casting its own
deep shadow which, by its sharp contrast with the bright brocade,
both emphasises and locates the small figure as the main point of
Detail of doña María de Sotomayor,
showing Velázquez's free brushwork on her dress
Velázquez further emphasises the Infanta by his positioning and
lighting of her Maids of Honour, whom he sets opposing one another:
to left and right, before and behind the Infanta. The maid to the
left faces the light, her brightly lit profile and sleeve creating
a diagonal. Her opposite number creates a broader but less defined
reflection of her attention, making a diagonal space between them,
in which their charge stands protected.
A further internal diagonal passes through the space occupied by
the Infanta. There is a similar connection between the female dwarf
and the figure of Velázquez himself, both of whom look towards the
viewer from similar angles, creating a visual tension. The face of
Velázquez is dimly lit by light that is reflected, rather than
direct. For this reason his features, though not as sharply
defined, are more visible than those of the dwarf who is much
nearer the light source. This appearance of a total face, full-on
to the viewer, draws the attention, and its importance is marked,
tonally, by the contrasting frame of dark hair, the light on the
hand and brush, and the skilfully placed triangle of light on the
artist's sleeve, pointing directly to the face.
From the figure of the artist, the viewer's eye leaps again
diagonally into the pictorial space. Another man stands, echoing
and opposing the form of the artist, outside rather than inside,
made clearly defined and yet barely identifiable by the light and
shade. The positioning of such an area of strong tonal contrast
right at the rear of the pictorial space is a daring compositional
tactic. The shapes of bright light are similar to the irregular
light shapes of the foreground Maid of Honour, but the sharply
defined door-frame repeats the border of the mirror.
The mirror is a perfectly defined unbroken pale rectangle within a
broad black rectangle. A clear geometric shape, like a lit face,
draws the attention of the viewer more than a broken geometric
shape such as the door, or a shadowed or oblique face such as that
of the dwarf in the foreground or that of the man in the
background. The viewer cannot distinguish the features of the king
and queen, but in the opalescent sheen of the mirror's surface, the
glowing ovals are plainly turned directly to the viewer. Jonathan Miller
points out that apart from
"adding suggestive gleams at the bevelled edges, the most important
way the mirror betrays its identity is by disclosing imagery whose
brightness is so inconsistent with the dimness of the surrounding
wall that it can only have been borrowed, by reflection, from the
strongly illuminated figures of the King and Queen".
As the Maids of Honour are reflected in each other, so too do the
king and queen have their doubles within the painting, in the dimly
lit forms of the chaperone and guard, the two who serve and care
for their daughter. The positioning of these figures sets up a
pattern, one man, a couple, one man, a couple, and while the outer
figures are nearer the viewer than the others, they all occupy the
same horizontal band on the picture's surface.
Adding to the inner complexities of the picture and creating
further visual interactions is the male dwarf in the foreground,
whose raised hand echoes the gesture of the figure in the
background, while his playful demeanour, and distraction from the
central action, are in complete contrast with it. The informality
of his pose, his shadowed profile, and his dark hair all serve to
make him a mirror image to the kneeling attendant of the Infanta.
However, the painter has set him forward of the light streaming
through the window, and so minimised the contrast of tone on this
Despite certain spatial ambiguities this is the painter's most
thoroughly rendered architectural space, and the only one in which
a ceiling is shown. According to López-Rey, in no other composition
did Velázquez so dramatically lead the eye to areas beyond the
viewer's sight: both the canvas he is seen painting, and the space
beyond the frame where the king and queen stand can only be
imagined. The bareness of the dark ceiling, the back of Velázquez's
canvas, and the strict geometry of framed paintings contrast with
the animated, brilliantly lit and sumptuously painted foreground
entourage. Stone writes:
Mirror and reflection
The spatial structure and positioning of the mirror's reflection
are such that Philip IV and Mariana appear to be standing on
the viewer's side of the pictorial space, facing the Infanta and
her entourage. According to Janson, not only is the gathering of
figures in the foreground for Philip and his wife's benefit, but
the painter's attention is concentrated on the couple, as he
appears to be working on their portrait. Although they can only be
seen in the mirror reflection, their distant image occupies a
central position in the canvas, in terms of social hierarchy as
well as composition. As spectators, our position in relation to the
painting is uncertain. It has been debated whether the ruling
couple are standing beside the viewer or have replaced the viewer,
who sees the scene through their eyes. Lending weight to the latter
idea are the gazes of three of the figures—Velázquez, the Infanta,
and Maribarbola—who appear to be looking directly at the viewer.
The mirror on the back wall indicates what is not there: the king
and queen, and in the words of Harriet Stone, "the generations of
spectators who assume the couple's place before the painting".
Writing in 1980, the critics Snyder and Cohn observed:
In Las Meninas
, the king and queen are supposedly
"outside" the painting, yet their reflection in the back wall
mirror also places them "inside" the pictorial space.
The painting is likely to have been influenced by Jan van Eyck
's Arnolfini Portrait
, of 1434. At the
time, van Eyck's painting hung in Philip's palace, and would have
been familiar to Velázquez. The Arnolfini Portrait
has a mirror positioned at the back of the pictorial space,
reflecting two figures who would have the same angle of vision as
does the viewer of Velázquez's painting; they are too small to
identify, but it has been speculated that one may be intended as
the artist himself, though he is not shown in the act of painting.
According to Lucien Dällenbach:
Jonathan Miller asks: "What are we to make of the blurred features
of the royal couple? It is unlikely that it has anything to do with
the optical imperfection of the mirror, which would, in reality,
have displayed a focused image of the King and Queen". He notes
that "in addition to the represented
mirror, he teasingly
implies an unrepresented one, without which it is difficult to
imagine how he could have shown himself painting the picture we now
The elusiveness of Las Meninas
, according to Dawson Carr,
"suggests that art, and life, are an illusion". The relationship
between illusion and reality were central concerns in Spanish
culture during the 17th century, figuring largely in Don Quixote
: the best-known work of
. In this respect, Calderón de la Barca's
Life is a Dream
is commonly seen as the literary
equivalent of Velázquez's painting:
Jon Manchip White notes that the painting can be seen as a résumé
of the whole of Velázquez's life and
career, as well as a summary of his art to that point. He placed
his only confirmed self-portrait
room in the royal palace surrounded by an assembly of royalty,
, and fine objects that represent
his life at court
. The art historian
Svetlana Alpers suggests that, by portraying the artist at work in
the company of royalty and nobility
Velázquez was claiming high status for both the artist and his art,
and in particular to propose that painting is a liberal
rather than a mechanical art. This
distinction was a point of controversy at the time. It would have
been significant to Velázquez, since the rules of the Order of
Santiago excluded those whose occupations were mechanical.
Michel Foucault devoted the opening chapter of The Order of Things
(1966) to an
analysis of Las Meninas
. Foucault describes the painting
in meticulous detail, but in a language that is "neither prescribed
by, nor filtered through the various texts of art-historical
investigation". Foucault viewed the painting without regard to the
subject matter, nor to the artist's biography, technical ability,
sources and influences, social context, or relationship with his
patrons. Instead he analyses its conscious artifice, highlighting
the complex network of visual relationships between painter,
subject-model, and viewer:
For Foucault, Las Meninas
contains the first signs of a
, or way of thinking,
in European art. It represents a mid-point between what he sees as
the two "great discontinuities" in art history, the classical and
the modern: "Perhaps there exists, in this painting by Velázquez,
the representation as it were of Classical representation, and the
definition of the space it opens up to us ... representation,
freed finally from the relation that was impeding it, can offer
itself as representation in its pure form."
Las Meninas as culmination of themes in Velázquez
Many aspects of Las Meninas
relate to earlier works by
Velázquez in which he plays with conventions of representation. In
the Rokeby Venus
surviving nude—the face of the subject is visible, blurred beyond
any realism, in a mirror. The angle of the mirror is such that
although "often described as looking at herself, [she] is more
disconcertingly looking at us". In the early Christ
in the House of Martha and Mary
of 1618, Christ and his
companions are seen only through a serving hatch to a room behind,
according to the National Gallery (London), who are clear that this
is the intention, although before restoration many art historians
regarded this scene as either a painting hanging on the wall in the
main scene, or a reflection in a mirror, and the debate has
continued. The dress worn in the two scenes also differs: the main
scene is in contemporary dress, while the scene with Christ uses
conventional iconographic biblical dress. This is also a feature of
of 1629, where contemporary peasants consort
with the god Bacchus
and his companions,
who have the conventional undress of mythology. In this, as in some
of his early bodegones
figures look directly at the viewer as if seeking a reaction.
, probably painted the year after Las
, two different scenes from Ovid are shown: one in
contemporary dress in the foreground, and the other partly in
antique dress, played before a tapestry on the back wall of a room
behind the first. According to the critic Sira Dambe, "aspects of
representation and power are addressed in this painting in ways
closely connected with their treatment in Las Meninas". In a series
of portraits of the late 1630s and 1640s—all now in the
Prado—Velázquez painted clowns and other members of the royal
household posing as gods, heroes, and philosophers; the intention
is certainly partly comic, at least for those in the know, but in a
highly ambiguous way.
Velázquez's portraits of the royal family themselves had until then
been straightforward, if often unflatteringly direct and highly
complex in expression. On the other hand, his royal portraits,
designed to be seen across vast palace rooms, feature more strongly
than his other works the bravura handling for which he is famous:
"Velázquez's handling of paint is exceptionally free, and as one
approaches Las Meninas
there is a point at which the
figures suddenly dissolve into smears and blobs of paint. The
long-handled brushes he used enabled him to stand back and judge
the total effect."
the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano
(1634–1726) became one of the few allowed to view paintings held in
Philip IV's private apartments, and was greatly impressed by
Las Meninas. Giordano described the work as the "theology
of painting", and was inspired to paint A Homage to
Velázquez (National Gallery, London).
By the early 18th century his oeuvre was
gaining international recognition, and later in the century British
collectors ventured to Spain in search of acquisitions. Since the
popularity of Italian art
was then at
its height among British connoisseurs, they concentrated on
paintings that showed obvious Italian influence, largely ignoring
others such as Las Meninas
An almost immediate influence can be seen in the two portraits by
Mazo of subjects depicted in Las Meninas
, which in some
ways reverse the motif of that painting. Ten years later, in 1666,
Mazo painted the Infanta Margarita (see image above), who was then
15 and just about to leave Madrid to marry the Holy Roman Emperor.
In the background are figures in two further receding doorways, one
of which was the new King Charles (Margarita's brother), and
another the dwarf Maribarbola. A Mazo portrait of the widowed Queen
Mariana again shows, through a doorway in the Alcázar, the young
king with dwarfs, possibly including Maribarbola, and attendants
who offer him a drink.
Francisco Goya etched
in 1778, and later used Velázquez's painting
as the model for his Charles IV of Spain and
. As in Las Meninas
, the royal family
in Goya's work is apparently visiting the artist's studio. In both
paintings the artist is shown working on a canvas, of which only
the rear is visible. Goya, however, replaces the atmospheric and
warm perspective of Las Meninas
with what Pierre Gassier
calls a sense of "imminent suffocation". Goya's royal family is
presented on a "stage facing the public, while in the shadow of the
wings the painter, with a grim smile, points and says: 'Look at
them and judge for yourself!' "
The 19th-century British art collector William John Bankes
travelled to Spain
during the Peninsular War
and acquired a copy of Las Meninas
painted by Mazo, which
he believed to be an original preparatory oil
by Velázquez—although Velázquez did not usually paint
studies. Bankes described his purchase as "the glory of my
collection", noting that he had been "a long while in treaty for it
and was obliged to pay a high price". The copy was admired
throughout the 19th century in Britain.
The art world developed a new appreciation for Velázquez's less
Italianate paintings after 1819, when Ferdinand VII
opened the royal
collection to the public. In 1879 John Singer Sargent
a small-scale copy of Las Meninas
, and in 1882 painted a
homage to the painting in his The Daughters of Edward
, while the Irish artist Sir John Lavery
(1856–1941) chose Velázquez's
masterpiece as the basis for his portrait The Royal Family at
Buckingham Palace, 1913
. George V
Lavery's studio during the execution of the painting, and, perhaps
remembering the legend that Philip IV had daubed the cross of
the Knights of Santiago on the figure of Velázquez, asked Lavery if
he could contribute to the portrait with his own hand. According to
Lavery, "Thinking that royal blue might be an appropriate colour, I
mixed it on the palette, and taking a brush he [George V]
applied it to the Garter ribbon."
August and December 1957, Pablo
Picasso painted a series of 58 interpretations of Las
Meninas, and figures from it, which currently fill the Las
Meninas room of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, Spain.
Picasso did not vary
the characters within the series, but largely retained the
naturalness of the scene; according to the museum, his works
constitute an "exhaustive study of form, rhythm, colour and
movement". A print of 1973 by Richard Hamilton
draws on both Velázquez and Picasso.
Photographer Joel-Peter Witkin
commissioned by the Spanish
Ministry of Culture
to create a work titled Las Meninas,
(1987) which references Velázquez's painting as
well as other works by Spanish artists.
In 2004, the video artist Eve Sussman
filmed 89 Seconds at Alcázar
a high-definition video tableau inspired by Las Meninas
The work is a recreation of the moments leading up to and directly
following the approximately 89 seconds when the royal family and
their courtiers would have come together in the exact configuration
of Velázquez's painting. Sussman had assembled a team of 35,
including an architect, a set designer, a choreographer, a costume
designer, actors, actresses, and a film crew.
A 2008 exhibit at the Museu Picasso titled "Forgetting Velázquez:
Las Meninas" included art responding to by Velázquez's painting
, Avigdor Arikha
, Claudio Bravo
, Juan Carreño de
,and Witkin, among others.
- The name is sometimes given in print as Las Meniñas,
but there is no word "meniña" in Spanish. The word means
"girl from a noble family brought up to serve at court" (Oxford
Concise Spanish Dictionary) it comes from "menina", the
Portuguese word for "girl". This
misspelling may be due to confusion with "niña", the Spanish word
- In 1855, William Stirling wrote in Velázquez and his
works: "Velázquez seems to have anticipated the discovery of
and, taking a real room and real people grouped together by chance,
to have fixed them, as it were, by magic, for all time, on canvas".
López-Rey (1999), Vol. I, p. 211.
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Bulletin, Vol. 57, No. 2, June 1975,
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- Mariana of Austria had originally been betrothed to Baltasar Carlos.
- Canaday, John. Baroque Painters. (First published in
1969, in The Lives of the Painters). New York: Norton
Library, 1972. See also: Kahr (1975), quoting Pacheco.
- Alpers (2005), p. 183.
Michael. Painting at Court. London: Weidenfeld and
Nicholson, 1971, p. 147.
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- López-Rey (1999), Vol. I, p. 214.
- There is no documentation as to the dates or reasons for the
trimming. López-Rey states that the truncation is more notable on
the right. López-Rey (1999), Vol. II, p. 306.
- Records of 1735 show that the original frame was lost during
the painting's rescue from the fire. The appraisal of 1747–48 makes
reference to the painting having been "lately restored". López-Rey
(1999), Vol. II, pp. 306, 310.
- López-Rey (1999), Vol. II, pp. 310–11.
- Editorial. " The cleaning of 'Las Meninas '".
The Burlington Magazine, 1985.
Retrieved 22 December, 2007.
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- The work was evacuated to Geneva by the Republican Government, together with
much of the Prado's collection, during the last months of the
Civil War, where it hung in an exhibition of Spanish paintings
in 1939, next to Pablo Picasso's Guernica. In Held (1988), Russell
- Alpers (2005), p. 185.
- Gaggi (1989), p. 1.
- Maria Theresa was by then queen to Louis XIV of
France. Philip Prospero, Prince
of Asturias was born the following year, but died at four,
shortly before his brother Charles II was born. One daughter
from this marriage, and five from Philip's first marriage, had died
- White (1969), p. 143.
- Stone (1996), p. 35.
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carnivalesque in Las Meninas", Aurora, Vol. 1, 2000,
page numbers unknown.
- Carr (2006), p. 47.
- Antonio Palomino, 1724. Quoted in: Kahr (1975),
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- Gaggi (1989), p. 3.
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- Foucault (1966), p. 21.
- "The composition is anchored by the two strong diagonals that
intersect at about the spot where the Infanta stands..." López-Rey
(1999), p. 217.
- Miller (1998), pp. 78–79.
- López-Rey (1999), p. 217.
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common with Velázquez' composition, the closest and most meaningful
antecedent to which is to be found within his own oeuvre in
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, painted almost
forty years earlier, in Seville, before he could have seen the
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