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Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Las Meninas, or The Family of King Philip IV


kamiki

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A painting of a painting within a painting, Velázquez masterpiece consists of different themes rolled into one: A portrait of Spain’s royal family and retinue in Velázquez’s studio; a self-portrait; an almost art-for-art’s-sake display of bravura brush work; and an interior scene, offering glimpses into Velázquez’s working life. Las Meninas is also a treatise on the nature of seeing, as well as a riddle confounding viewers about what exactly they’re looking at. It’s the visual art equivalent of breaking the fourth wall—or in this case, the studio’s far wall on which there hangs a mirror reflecting the faces of the Spanish King and Queen. Immediately this suggests that the royal couple is on our side of the picture plane, raising the question of where we are in relationship to them. Meanwhile, Velázquez’s full length rendering of himself at his easel begs the question of whether he’s looking in a mirror to paint the picture. In other words, are the subjects of Las Meninas (all of whom are fixing their gaze outside of the frame), looking at us, or looking at themselves?
 

 

 

 

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