How can a mid-17th-century painting continue to inspire new interpretations, nearly 400 years later? Diego Velázquez and Las Meninas have done just that. This video from Sotheby’s unpacks the lasting impact of a single work that managed to disrupt the course of art history. Through arresting techniques, hidden perspectives, and a confrontational relationship with the viewer, this painting tackled new ground.
“As part of Sotheby’s Most Famous Artworks in the World series, this episode of Anatomy of an Artwork explores Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, now located in the Museo del Prado, Madrid,” the video explains. “Painted in 1656 at the Royal Alcázar of Madrid, this large scale masterpiece contains an enigmatic configuration of illusions and codes that invite new interpretations centuries later. The viewer is first drawn to a brightly painted figure of a young girl, but upon a closer inspection, other focal points emerge. Velázquez includes himself in a rare self-portrait that when coupled with a mirror in which King Philip IV and his wife Mariana are reflected creates a ricochet of perspectives. This interplay of light and reflection has led scholars to describe Velásquez as ‘almost postmodern’.”
You can get a sense of the revolutionary nature of this painting — and why it continues to inspire — here:
Great art is timeless, but true genius can disrupt and change the entire discipline. Centuries on, Las Meninas continues to do just that.