The Meninas or Las Meninas, also known as The Family of Philip IV, is Diego Velázquez’s most famous portrait, painted in 1656. The painting is on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid.
A masterpiece from the Spanish Golden Age of an interior scene in a large hall of the Alacazard Palace in Madrid, in which there are several figures from the court of King Philip IV of Spain.
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The complex and enigmatic composition of the canvas questions the link between reality and illusion. It creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer of the canvas and the characters. This complexity has been the source of many analyzes that make this canvas the most commented on in the history of Western painting.
The characters represented on this canvas are, in the foreground from left to right: Diego Velasquez, the following dona Maria Augustina de Sarmiento, and dona Isabel de Velasco who surround the Infanta Marguerite, the dwarves Mari-Barbola and Nicolasito Pertusato; in the background, behind them, Marcela de Ulloa, governess, and Diego Ruiz de Azcona; and finally, the character in the background is Jose Nieto Velasquez, marshal of the palace.
Interpretation of Las Meninas
VELASQUEZ praises us for the directing. The characters are aligned, as exposed. Each of them occupy a specific place according to their rank.
While retaining its function as a painter, VELASQUEZ places itself among the members of the royal family.
The cross he carries is “The Cross of the Order of Santiago”, recalling his position acquired in the world of the nobility and in the eyes of the sovereign.
All the light shines on the Infanta as if the latter attracted him to her. This little girl who is the couple’s only child in the first version of the Meninas represents the succession, the future of the royal family.
A year later his brother Prospero was born. As a boy he is therefore the only one to inherit the crown.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons