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One of the World's Top Three Mysterious Paintings - Las Meninas

This work is the most complex of all Velázquez's works, showing a scene in a large room in a royal castle.

Las Meninas

Diego Velázquez
Oil on canvas
318 x 276 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Using a photographic freeze-frame technique, the artist incorporated a large number of figures into the canvas and added to the mystery and uncertainty of the work through layers of "painting-within-a-picture" relationships.

Infanta Margaret Theresa, surrounded by people, appears to be the subject of the painting. However, according to the artist's position, the placement of the canvas, and the reflection of the figures in the mirror, Velázquez was painting the portraits of the king and the queen, making it impossible for the viewer to tell who the painter is and who the subject of the painting is. It was unprecedented in the history of painting to make use of the specificity of space in this way.

The painter placed himself behind the canvas, thus creating a communication between the painter and the viewer. The spatial perspective created by the walls of the room creates an inclusive effect, and the life-size size of the original gives the impression of being in front of the painting. This approach was later borrowed by Francisco Goya.

The three figures located on the left side of the foreground are, from left to right, Velázquez himself, Doña María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor and Infanta Margaret Theresa.

The 5 figures located on the right side of the foreground from left to right are Doña Isabel de Velasco, Doña Marcela de Ulloa, the achondroplastic Mari Bárbola, and the achondroplastic Nicolás Pertusato.

The three figures located in the background are King Philip IV and Queen Mariana in the mirror and Don José Nieto Velázquez in the portico on the right.

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