The Secret of

The Secret of <Las Meninas>

“Las Meninas” is the master piece of Diego Velázquez. Velázquez is the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age. “Las Meninas” has been one of the most widely analyzed works in Western painting because its mysteriousness and complexity. Now, let us look at this artwork.

Las Medians by Diego Velázquez

Obviously, Velázquez uses the chiaroscuro to paint this oil painting. Therefore, we can separate this artwork with two zones, the bright zone and the dark zone.

Firstly, let us focus on the bright zone.

There is a little girl in the center of the light. This girl is Philip IV's daughter, the Infanta Margaret Theresa. The princess Margaret is the heroine of this oil painting.

Detail of Las Medians, Princess Margaret

Around the princess, there are four deuteragonist. The taller girls are the palace maids. During that time, people treat them like inherent clowns. However, Velázquez painted their face serious and peaceful. It is a very different expression with other artworks in that era.

Detail of Las Medians, the Palace Maids

Moreover, the dark zone is the most important part of this artwork.There are 4 people in the dark zone. They are the painter, imperial bodyguard, and a nun, and a officer.

Details of Las Medians, the Painter, Bodyguard, Nun and Officer

If we look closely, we will find that all of these three people is look toward right top corner, except for the nun. There comes a question, who were they looking at? Actually, the answer is simple. They were looking at Philip IV and his wife, Mariana of Austria. This answer came from a clue hidden in this painting, which is the reflection of a mirror hung on the back wall. That mirror reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. 

Finally, it turns out that the secret of the masterpiece is by using mirror, Velázquez presents the figures who are not suppose to be in the canvas. Through this way, Velázquez successfully created a space effect which is similar with three dimensional effect.

“Las Meninas” has long been recognized as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. It also has huge impact on the contemporary Western art.

For the influence of this oil painting on the contemporary Western art, you are welcome to read our next Blog.


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