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Las Meninas Essay

1204 words - 5 pages

Las Meninas is considered one of the greatest paintings of all time by critics and casual admirers of art alike. It was painted during a time when Spain’s glory was declining, and Velázquez was surrounded by the remnants of a once-great court, which was now in shambles and debt. King Philip had entered depression, due to the fact that he did not have a suitable male heir to the throne and was bankrupted by the Thirty Years’ War, and paid little effort to governing his country. He had lost power, and his portrait in the mirror of Las Meninas illustrates the shadow of what Philip had once been. The center and main focus of the painting is La Infanta Margarita, Philip’s five-year-old daughter. Light streams through a window onto her face, illuminating her with a golden light. Two of her meninas, or ladies-in-waiting, are located on either side of the princess, one kneeling and offering her a glass of water with another rising from a curtsy. On the right side, the dwarf Mari-Bárbola and the midget Nicolas Pertusato stand, along with a brown dog. Behind them, a man and woman are in conversation. On the left side, a massive canvas looms over the group as Velázquez, the artist, stands behind it with his brush and palette. On the dark back wall, two paintings hang along with a mirror which reflects the countenances of the king and queen. A man stands in the doorway of a door in the back of the room, with his hand on a curtain as if he has just pulled it open. The room appears almost empty, save for the figures in it, and this emptiness is amplified by the room’s high ceiling. Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas, conveys a message telling of the crumbling political situation and uncertain future of Spain at the time through the placement and depictions of figures like the princess and the royal couple, and their dark, gloomy background.
Though La Infanta and her meninas are illuminated in the midground of this painting, and the colors that compose them are more intense than those which the rest of the painting consists of, the contrasting dark, hazy background is represents the collapsing monarchy and the uncertainty of Spain’s future. The Spanish crown was bankrupt and the heir to the throne, Carlos II, was diseased and frail, as well as infertile. After his rule, Spain would have neither money nor a new monarch to pull Spain back up to its previous glory, so its future was in doubt. The background of Las Meninas represents what Velázquez believed lay ahead for the country. It is gloomy and sparsely furnished, demonstrating Spain’s poverty caused by the war. The composition of the painting includes nine figures, eleven if the king and queen’s reflections in the mirror are included, clustered in the bottom half of the painting, leaving the top half empty. This represents how most of the poverty going on at the time is beyond their help and there are places where the monarchy cannot reach, where they cannot fix Spain’s...

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