Las Meninas

Diego Velazquez • Painting, 1656, 318×276 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait, Genre scene
Style of art: Baroque
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1656
Size: 318×276 cm
Artwork in collection: Prado Irina Olikh
Artwork in selections: 129 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Las Meninas»

"Las Meninas" (that means "maids of honor") – the most famous and iconic painting by Diego velázquez. This picture is an illusion, the picture-a mirror, picture-autobiography.

In the Prado Museum "Las Meninas" is deliberately placed very low so that the viewer was almost on the same level with the characters in the picture. "When you stand in front of her, shares his impression of the art historian Paola Volkova, - you have a complete illusion that you are in the workshop, which is shown in this picture. I never in my life experienced such a strange, even eerie – to the cold in the back – the feeling that you are inside the picture; that you have crossed the mysterious boundary of time and immersed in this world with whom you are now United. You stand between the little girl, Infantas Margarita, maids of honour, which led her to the artist's Studio, and those who stand behind you".

Infanta Margarita

The youngest daughter of Spanish king Philip IV, the girl, which the Habsburg Empire had great dynastic hope, was the favorite of Diego velázquez. The artist held the position of chief steward of the Royal quarters, and his workshop was in the apartments of the king, so the fact that Margarita has led to Velasquez, in his "study", nothing unusual there. Velazquez painted Margarita multiply (1, 2, 3, 4). Charming creature with the air thin halo of reddish hair and in a stiff gown to a rigid frame-Vertigogo – it is often compared to a spotlight illuminating the dark workshop. She dies 21-year-old, survived Velasquez only 13 years old.

Maids of honour (Las Meninas)

Girls ladies located on right and left hand from the Princess. One of them, doña Isabel de Velasco, bowed in obeisance. Second, doña Maria Sarmiento, crouching low and holding out a Margarita, a container of water. All this corresponds to the rituals of the Spanish court is strictly observed. The Princess could not drink water on their own – it had to bring servants. And to bring the girl, lady-in-waiting was obliged to fall on his knees before her.


Spanish courtyard representable without dwarfs. The names of some of them retained by Velasquez. In "the Meninas", we see the midget Mary Barbale brought from Bavaria and, perhaps, who was the nurse of Margaret, and miniature dwarf Italian Nicolao de Pertusato. Freaks and dwarfs were the only people at court, free from the conventions of etiquette. In the "Meninas" the order of Barbola shows off her Breasts and Nicolao unceremoniously pushes the leg of the sleeping Royal dog.

The artist himself

Velázquez portrays with this company and himself. Some (for example, the British art historian Waldemar Januszczak see his face pride and arrogance. Still – coming from a poor Portuguese family of Jewish settlers was almost a member of the family of the king of the Empire that dominated over half of the world. But there are those who read in the face of Velazquez nobility, as well as dissatisfaction and melancholy.

It is known that, intending to nobility, he suffered a humiliating trial in which he, in particular, was required to prove that painting is not his way of earning. At the end of the life of Velazquez, after was painted "Las Meninas", Philip IV would grant him the order of St. Iago – the highest state award. Now we can see the order on the breast of Velasquez only because after his death the king ordered another artist to complete the picture of this item.

Who actually writes Velasquez?

The biggest intrigue of the picture – what a moment depicted in velázquez works? In his hands a palette and brush, he was looking somewhere further, over the heads of Margaret and the maids of honor, and before him stands on the subframe a huge canvas. But the audience doesn't need to conjecture that those of whom he writes, reflected in the small mirror behind Velazquez. It Philip IV and Queen Marianne Austrian the parents of the Infanta. Several of them blurred, but still unmistakably recognizable portraits, the viewer discerns amalgam mirrors. Interestingly, in all of its creative legacy of the artist we can find paintings where the king and Queen would be written not separately, but together.

Velasquez writes of himself in the environment and the surroundings, which for 30 years was content with his life. And yet, being a part of this reality, he creates – his talent and his brush. That is why "Las Meninas" is the best autobiography of Velazquez, and his Manifesto on the artist's place in the world.

Author: Anna Yesterday