“Menins”, Diego Velazquez – overview of the painting

“Menins”, Diego Velazquez – overview of the painting
"Menins", Diego Velazquez - overview of the painting - 1

  • Posted by Diego Velazquez
  • Museum: Prado Museum
  • Year: 1656

Overview of the painting :

Menina (or the family of Philip IV) – Diego Velazquez. 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 x 276 cm

   Probably, “Menins” is the most famous and recognizable picture of the artist, which almost everyone knows. This large canvas is one of the artist’s best works. It is distinguished by mastery of performance and interesting plot, as well as some unusual techniques that distinguish it from many similar portraits of representatives of the ruling classes.

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

   The entire image is slightly shifted to the side due to the canvas facing us with the back. Slightly moving back, an artist stands in front of the canvas – this is Velazquez himself. They paint a picture, but not the one we see in front of us, since the main characters are facing us. These are three different plans. But this also seemed to the master and he added a mirror that reflects the royal couple – the king of Spain, Philip IV and his wife Marianne. They look with love at their only child at that moment – infanta Margarita.

   Although the picture is called “Menina”, that is, the maids of honor at the Spanish royal court, the center of the image is a little princess, the hope of the whole Spanish Habsburgs at that time. Five-year-old Margarita is not calm in age, self-confident and even arrogant. Without the slightest excitement and a change in facial expression, they look at others, and her tiny baby body is literally chained in a tough shell of a magnificent court toilet. She is not embarrassed by noble ladies – her men – who sat in front of 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 jester who laid his foot on the big dog lying in the foreground. This little girl holds on with all possible greatness, personifying herself a centuries-old Spanish monarchy.

   The picture is written in pleasant silver tones without screaming colors. The long-distance plan of the room seems to be dissolved in a light grayish haze, but all the details of the complex outfit of little Margarita are written with the smallest details. I did not forget the artist and myself. We are faced with an impressive middle-aged man, with magnificent curly curls, in black silk clothes and with a Sant Yago cross on his chest. Because of this, a small legend arose of the distinction that only a purebred Spaniard could receive without a drop of impurities of Jewish or Moorish blood. Since the artist received the cross only three years after writing the canvas, it is believed that the king of Spain himself drew it.

   When you look closely at the canvas, you are surprised at the number of artistic techniques used in the work. To write faces, the finest lassings were used, in which the paints were superimposed with the finest translucent layers. Details of clothes, on the contrary, are written in small elegant smears. They surprisingly accurately convey the texture of lace and velvet, the finest sewing and the complex texture of the infanta dress. The environment is as if made with water or pastel, dissolving in the lightest, vague atmosphere.

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