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THE MAIDS OF HONOUR

DIEGO VELÁZQUEZ BY: SERGIO MALVAR & ANTÍA SABIO (4ºESO)


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Pág. Author’s biography ............................................................................................................ 2 Formal analysis ................................................................................................................ 3 Description ........................................................................................................................ 3 Maids of Honour ............................................................................................................... 3 Infant Margaret Theresa ................................................................................................... 3 Dwarfs .............................................................................................................................. 4 The Kings ......................................................................................................................... 4 Velázquez ......................................................................................................................... 4 Marcela de Ulloa and an unidentified man ........................................................................ 4 José Nieto Velázquez ....................................................................................................... 4 Colour ............................................................................................................................... 5 Line ................................................................................................................................... 5 Size ................................................................................................................................... 5 Use of space ..................................................................................................................... 5 Symbols and meaning ...................................................................................................... 5 Restoration ....................................................................................................................... 6 When we looked the picture ............................................................................................. 6 Curiosities ......................................................................................................................... 6 Judgments ........................................................................................................................ 7 Context ............................................................................................................................. 7 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................... 8

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AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY.

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was born on 5th June 1599 in Seville, and he died on 6th August 1660 in Madrid. He was a Renaissance Spanish Baroque painter. He was influenced by Caravaggio and his followers. He moved to Madrid when he was twenty-four years old, where he was proclaimed King Philip IV’s painter. Four years later he was ascended to Chamber’s painter. He visited Italy in two times and in one of them he portrayed the Pope Innocent X. Most part of his artworks are in The Museo del Prado in Madrid. “Las Hilanderas (The Fable of Arachne)” and “Las Meninas (The maids of honour)” are considered master artworks. Manet called him as a painter of painters when he met his artworks. He is considered a master of universal painting.

“Self-portrait” Diego Velázquez (1640) Oil on canvas 45 x 38 cm.

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FORMAL ANALYSIS.

DESCRIPTION. When we look at the picture in the foreground we can see five people and a dog. In the middle ground there are three people and in the background only one. In the foreground we can see the Infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain who is between Isabel de Velasco and María Agustina Sarmiento, the Meninas. The two Meninas are the Infant’s maids of honour. On the left of Isabel de Velasco we can see Mari Bárbola and Nicolasillo Pertusato, two dwarfs who were at the service of the Palace and they lived in Alcazar too. The dog is a mastiff. Velázquez is behind of María Agustina Sarmiento (on the left), and Marcela de Ulloa and an unidentified man are behind the other maid of honour and the dwarfs. In the background, behind the door and presumably climbing the stairs, we can see José Nieto Velázquez. At his left, reflected in the mirror, we can see the Kings. At the background of the painting we can see two other big paintings. One of them is “Minerva and Arachne” by Rubens, and the other one is “Apollo and Pan” by Jordaens.

Maids of honour. 

María Agustina Sarmiento is making a curtsey to the Infant and she is offering her something to drink in a red glass on a silver tray.  Isabel de Velasco is making an easy curtsey to the Infant.  The clothes they are wearing consist of a skirt and a light shirt. María Agustina Sarmiento’s hair is brown and it is adorned whit some bows. Isabel de Velasco’s hair is black, and is adorned with some bows too.

Infant Margaret Theresa of Spain. 

The Infant Margaret Theresa of Spain is the King’s daughter (Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria). She is accepting the tray looking at the spectator, the person who is admiring the painting  She is wearing a dress, which is similar to the Meninas’ dress, but it is lighter than theirs. She is blond and her hair is adorned with a flower.

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Dwarfs.  

Mari Bárbola is a German dwarf with an abnormal bigger head. She is looking at us. Nicolasillo Pertusato is a dwarf too although he seems a child. He is kicking the mastiff.  She is wearing a dark dress embroidered. Her brown hair is down. She has a necklace. He is wearing a red garb with black sleeves and stockings and white collar and cuffs. He is wearing shoes with red bows too.

The Kings.  The King of Spain Philip IV is reflected in the mirror posing.  Mariana of Austria is the King’s wife and she is reflected in the mirror posing too.  He is wearing a dark garb. She is wearing a light dress.

Diego Velázquez. 

He is the author of the painting where you can see his self-portrait. He has a brush in his right hand and a palette in his left one. He is looking at us and painting a big picture. He looks younger than he was when the painting was made.  He is wearing a dark garb with a red Santiago’s cross in his chest. He has a moustache and his black hair is down.

Marcela de Ulloa and an unidentified man. 

Marcela de Ulloa was in charge of the ladies service, waitress and in charge of the Infant. She is talking to an unidentified man.  We don’t know who is this character but recent studies say that it could be Diego Ruiz Azcona, ex-bishop of Pamplona and ex-archbishop of Burgos, Tutor of the Infants of Spain. He is talking to Marcela de Ulloa.  She is in mournig. He is wearing a dark garb.

José Nieto Velázquez. 

José Nieto is the person that we can see when we watch at the background of the painting. He is behind a door. We don’t know if he is climbing or going down the stairs.  He is wearing a black suit and a dark cape. We think that he is holding a handbag. 5


COLOUR. The painting was made on oil on canvas. Colours are dark illuminated by a subdued light.

LINE. Depending on their position in the painting, the characters’ silhouette can be more or less fuzzy. The lines are controlled. The painter didn’t use dark lines to separate the colours.

SIZE. It’s a life-sized painting.

USE OF SPACE. Some people think that Velázquez created a four dimensional painting. The painting was made from a front view perspective.

SYMBOLS AND MEANING. 

 

Red colour: o We think that the red curtain reflected in the mirror could represent the king’s power, the same as the red flowers in the Infant’s dress could represent her future power. o We also think that the red flower in the Meninas and the Infant’s wrists symbolize the ties between them. o We think that the red colour could represent the evil too, as example the Pertusato’s red garb, who is kicking the mastiff. Infant’s dress: o We think that the light colour of the Infant’s dress signify purity and innocence. The mastiff: o We think that the mastiff represents loyalty.

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RESTORATION. The canvas had been restored in 1984 by a team of El Prado run by John Brealey in the museum studio. Before starting to restore the painting, in 1982, the museum’s team with the collaboration of Harvard University made a strict technical study of it. The painting was in excellent conditions of conservation despite of having passed more than three centuries since it had been painted and the fire of Alcazar in 1674. John Brealey was a specialist of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

WHEN WE LOOKED THE PICTURE. 

Sergio: o The first time I saw this painting the kings’ picture in the background drew my attention. I didn’t understand why people think that the picture isn’t a picture, because I thought that if it was a mirror, we could see the red curtain. The first time I saw the image, I thought that Velázquez used a mirror to paint this picture and the Infant is looking at herself, so we have the sensation that she is looking at us when we look at the painting. Antía: o The first time I saw this picture I saw a little girl who was the centre of attention of people around her, except for the “child” who is at the right, and that they were to her service. I also saw the painter and I thought that all of them were in front of a mirror and that the Kings were portrayed in a painting. I thought that in the painting there were four children, three girls and one boy, the painter, a dwarf, the Kings, two men, one nun and a mastiff.

CURIOSITIES. 

Some people think that the head’s position of the Infant, Meninas, Velázquez and José Nieto form the Corona Borealis constellation.

If you are standing and turn back to the picture and you see it through a mirror, you’ll be impressed for the realistic effect of the painting. 7


JUDGMENTS. 

At the beginning of 2013, in an article of the European Review, in Journals Cambridge Online, Simon Altmann explained his theory about the mirror and the Kings. He told us about the big difference between King and Queen’s age and he defended his thesis in respect of King’s embarrassment for this reason. Mª Teresa Álvarez, in an article appeared in El Mundo newspaper one week before being published her book “El secreto de Maribárbola”, exposed her opinion about a possible love of Mari Bárbola towards the painter and Mari Bárbola’s feelings about herself, her situation and what she felt for Velázquez. An article in the webpage “Andalucía información” tells us the most probable story about the secret of Santiago’s cross painted in Velázquez’s chest. The cross was assigned to Velázquez three years later than the date in which Velázquez painted the painting, so, sho did it? This article tells that Velázquez painted the cross in his deathbed. o Other sources claim that Santiago’s cross was painted by the King in order to express his gratitude to the painter, who worked for him around forty years.

CONTEXT. People think that “Las Meninas” and “Las Hilanderas” are “in the crown” of paintings, but without a doubt “Las Meninas” mark a milestone in the world of painting. The use of space in this painting is unique. No other painter used the colour as Velázquez did.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY. Information:  Altmann, Simon (2013). The Illusion of Mirrors: Velázquez Las Meninas. European Review, 21, pp 1-9. doi:10.1017/S106279871200021X. <http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8821 198> [search: 26th february 21]  Bigariato “El misterio de Las Meninas de Velázquez” [on-line]. Blog de las ciencias ocultas y la mitología. 10th May 2009. <http://bigariato.blogspot.com.es/2009/05/el-misterio-de-las-meninas-develazquez.html > [Search: 15th January 2014]  Calvo Serraller, Francisco “Las Meninas o la familia de Felipe IV” [on-line]. Museo del Prado. <https://www.museodelprado.es/enciclopedia/enciclopedia-on-line/voz/meninas-ola-familia-de-felipe-iv-las-velazquez/> [Search: 7th March 2014]  De Mingo, Pedro “La moda en la España del Siglo de Oro (1ª parte)” [on-line]. España Eterna. 28th September 2011. <http://espanaeterna.blogspot.com.es/2011/09/la-moda-en-la-espana-del-siglo-deoro-1.html> [Search: 31th January 2014]  Deira, José María “Velázquez y la Orden de Santiago” [on-line]. Andalucía información. 18th October 2010. <http://andaluciainformacion.es/portada/?h=1&p=1&a=146235&ht=> [Search: 15th January 2014 ]  J. Prieto, Manuel “Velázquez y la Orden de Santiago” [on-line]. Curistoria. Curiosidades y anécdotas históricas. 11th May 2010. <http://www.curistoria.com/2010/05/velazquez-y-la-orden-de-santiago.html> [Search: 15th January 2014]  “La enana que amó a Velázquez” [on-line]. El Mundo. 21th November 2004, nº475 <http://www.elmundo.es/cronica/2004/475/1101134850.html> [Search: 14th February 2014]  “Las Meninas. Diego da Silva Velázquez” [on-line]. <http://www.cossio.net/actividades/pinacoteca/p_01_02/las_meninas.htm> [Search: 14th February 2014]  “Mari Bárbola” [on-line]. Wikipedia. 23th April 2013. <http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mari_B%C3%A1rbola> [Search: 19th February 2014]

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 Martínez González, Luís “Enigmas en torno a Las Meninas, de Velázquez” [online]. Quécómoquién. 26th June 2010. <http://www.quecomoquien.es/enigmas-en-torno-a-las-meninas-develazquez.html> [Search: 19th February 2014]

Images:  Las Meninas 1656-1657. [on-line]. Wikipedia. 15th January 2013. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Las_Meninas,_by_Diego_Vel%C3%A1zq uez,_from_Prado_in_Google_Earth.jpg> [Search: 15th January 2014]  Self-portrait 1640. [on-line]. Wikipedia. 1st February 2013. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Diego_Vel%C3%A1zquez_Autorretrato_4 5_x_38_cm__Colecci%C3%B3n_Real_Academia_de_Bellas_Artes_de_San_Carlos__Museo_de_Bellas_Artes_de_Valencia.jpg> [Search: 7th March 2014]  Corona Borealis. [on-line]. Constelaciones TAEC. 25th February 2011. <http://constelacionestaec.blogspot.com.es/2011_02_01_archive.html> [Search: 7th March 2014]

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4º sergio & antía las meninas