Museums and Art

“Menins”, Diego Velazquez - description of the painting

“Menins”, Diego Velazquez - description of the painting



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Menin (or the family of Philip IV) - Diego Velazquez. 318 x 276 cm

Probably, “Menin” is the most famous and recognizable picture of the artist, which almost everyone knows. It is distinguished by virtuoso mastery of performance and an interesting plot, as well as some unusual tricks that distinguish it from many similar portraits of representatives of the ruling classes.

The picture impresses with its scale and versatility. Firstly, this is a very large canvas, and secondly, several workshops of artistic techniques were used at once to expand the space in it. The artist placed the characters in a spacious room, in the background of which there is a door with a gentleman in black clothes standing on the lighted stairs. This immediately indicates the presence of another space outside the room, visually expanding its size, depriving two-dimensionality.

The whole image is slightly shifted to the side due to the canvas facing us with the back side. Slightly moving back, the artist is standing in front of the canvas - this is Velazquez himself. They paint a picture, but not the one that we see in front of us, as the main characters face us. These are already three different plans. But even this didn’t seem to be enough for the master and he added a mirror in which the royal couple is reflected - the King of Spain Philip IV and his wife Marianne. They lovingly look at their only child at that time - Infanta Margarita.

Although the picture is called “Meninas,” that is, maids of honor at the Spanish royal court, the center of the image is a little princess, the hope of the entire family of Spanish Habsburgs at that time. Five-year-old Margarita is not calm by age, self-confident and even arrogant. They, without the slightest excitement or change in facial expression, gaze at others, and her tiny baby body is literally chained to the hard shell of a magnificent court toilet. She is not embarrassed by the noble ladies - her menin - crouched before her in a deep bow according to the harsh etiquette adopted at the Spanish court. She is not even interested in the palace dwarf and the buffoon who laid his foot on the large dog lying in the foreground. This little girl holds on with all possible grandeur, personifying the centuries-old Spanish monarchy.

The picture was painted in pleasant silver tones without flashy colors. The distant plan of the room seems to dissolve in a light grayish haze, but all the details of the complex dress of little Margarita are written out with the smallest details. The artist did not forget himself. We are faced with an impressive middle-aged man, with lush curly curls, in black silk clothes and with a Sant Iago cross on his chest. Because of this symbol of distinction, which only a purebred Spaniard could get without a drop of impurity of Jewish or Moorish blood, a small legend arose. Since the artist received the cross only three years after writing the canvas, it is believed that he was finished by the king of Spain.

Upon closer examination of the canvas, one is surprised at the number of artistic techniques used in the work. To write faces, the finest glaze was used, in which paints were superimposed with the finest translucent layers. Details of the clothes, on the contrary, are written out with small elegant strokes. They amazingly accurately convey the texture of lace and velvet, the finest sewing and the intricate texture of the Infanta dress. The environment, as it were, is done in watercolors or pastels, dissolving in the lightest, vague atmosphere.

One of the master’s most famous paintings is in the Prado Museum, where it still attracts the gaze of many visitors.


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