Posts Tagged 'spanish royalty'

Foucault’s reading of Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’



Las Meninas

Diego Velazquez, 1656

Oil on canvas, 318cm x 276cm (125.2in x 108.7in)

Museo del Prado, Madrid

I feel Foucault’s main point in this text is the idea of gaze within and beyond the picture, and it is this gaze which I will discuss. Whether it is the artist, who first appears to look at us as though we were the models; or the maids’ somewhat intense looks at their young mistress.

The frequency at which gazes are shot about the image and outwards towards the viewer is astounding. The gaze, however, always returns to the place in which we, observing the painting, are standing. But we are and yet are not the observed, due to the fact that the intricacies of this painting are held on the back wall within the mirror and its misty figures. Where the view feels he or she would be reflected we instead are shown the apparition of the king and queen of Spain. It is they, not we, who are being represented on the canvas which back takes up the left hand of Las Meninas. And so the royal figures gaze upon the same scene as we do, yet also they gaze back at themselves, and equally, at us.

It is this reciprocity of the gaze which draws us in:

‘the painter’s gaze, addressed to the void confronting him outside the picture, accepts as many models as there are spectators; in this precise but neutral space, the observer and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange’ (pp.4-5)

Are we seeing or are we being seen?

In my next post I will take a look at another interpretation of this painting and consider some  of Velazquez’s other works involving the royal family.