Widely acknowledged as one of the most important works of art ever produced, Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas is a sight to behold. Artists and critics from all schools of thought are unanimous in their proclamation of the work as a timeless masterpiece.
In his seminal work The Order of Things, author and philosopher Michel Foucault analyzes the painting. In the image, he construes a paradoxical relationship between reality and representation. He constructs a triangle between the painter, the mirror image, and the shadowy man in the background. He considers the three elements linked because they are all representations of a point of reality outside of the painting.
While Foucault interpreted Las Meninas in words, Picasso chose to do so via his painting. As a fourteen year-old teenager, Picasso’s first glimpse of Las Meninas came at a time when he was testing his artistic potential. Soon after, Picasso lost his younger sister to diphtheria. Deeply affected by the loss, Picasso created a sketch “draft” of Las Meninas focusing on the head maid and the infanta Margarita, who was blonde like his late sister. After that initial brush, the Las Meninas Series was actually completed in 1957, when Picasso plunged into a studious analysis of the work.
During the course of his study, Picasso created 58 paintings of the iconic image, with each detail worked over meticulously. At the time, the septuagenarian Picasso had been written off by critics, who believed his talent had dimmed with time. But his advanced age was probably an advantage. This, coupled with his experience led Picasso to undertake such an ambitious project; something he had previously thought uncomfortable.