Diego Velázquez 1599-1660 BACK

Las Meninas
oil on canvas 318x276cm
Museo de Prado

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Finished in 1656, according to Palomino, who did not indicate when it was begun. The apparent age of the Infanta, born on 12 July 1651, bears out the date reported by Palomino; it also suggests that the execution of this large composition could not have taken too long.

Damaged in the fire that destroyed the Madrid AlcAzar in 1734, and restored by the Court painter Don Juan Garcia de Miranda (1677-1749). The most obvious restoration, noticeable to the naked eye, concerns the left cheek of the Infanta which was almost entirely redone. X-rays made in 1960 revealed that this restoration recovers a rather large loss of pigment. Other large scratches in less important areas are also visible under X-rays. The canvas has been cut down on both sides, notably on the right.

The painting's richness of hue and texture has been substantially dulled during the last twenty years or so, due to unmitigated exposure of pollution, common to all the Prado galleries, aggravated in this instance by the fact that till 1978 the large canvas has been on show in a comparatively small room, almost constantly crowded with visitors.

Velazquez himself is seen at the easel; the mirror on the rear wall reflects the half-length figures of Philip IV and Queen Mariana standing Linder a red curtain. The Infianta Margarita is in the centre, attended by two meninas, or maids of honour, Dofia Isabel de Velasco and Dofia Maria Augustina Sarmiento,who curtsy as the latter offers her mistress a drink of water in a bficaro - a reddish earthen vessel - on a tray. In the right foreground stand two dwarfs, Mari-BArbola and Nicolds de Pertusato, the latter playfully placing his foot on the back of the mastiff which is resting on the floor. Linked to this large group there is another one formed by Dofia Marcela de Ulloa, guardamujer de las damas de la Reina attendant to the ladies-in-waiting - and an unidentified guardadamas, or escort to the same ladies. In the background, the aposentador, Palace marshall, to the Queen, Don Jose Nieto Velazquez, stands on the steps leading into the room from the door. The two large pictures hanging on the rear wall represent Pallas & Arachne and Apollo & Pan painted by Mazo.

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