Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) has long been one of my favorite artists. Las Meninas is a 1656 painting by Velázquez and probably his most admired artwork. Mysterious & compelling, there’s been much debate over its significance. At the center stands the little infant Margarita Teresa, daughter of King Philip IV of Spain and his wife Mariana of Austria. Their faces peer from the dark mirror hung at the far end of the room. The viewer’s attention is drawn to the figures in the foreground and to the maids of honor (las meninas) but above all the the sunlit figure of Margarita Teresa. In the right corner are two dwarfs.
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, 1656. Oil on canvas, 318 × 276 cm, 125.2 × 108.7 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid
How brilliantly Velázquez represents to us the feel of the setting. The artist gives the painted image a vivid and immediate sense of life through his skillful use of color, light, composition, and the sheer facility of his draftsmanship. The sunlight from the open window makes the figures sparkle with luminosity. Velázquez himself stands on the left with brush and palette, ready to paint (quite a large canvas!). Velazquez, Margarita Teresa, one of the maids of honor, and the chubby female dwarf all appear to look at the viewer (probably King Philip and his wife Mariana, as reflected in the mirror).
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was “the painter of the painters”, according to Édouard Manet.