las meninas foucault analysis

In his analysis of the painting, Foucault develops his central argument. Had he confirmed to us that the painting is a self-portrait, or a painting of the royal couple, or of the young princess, or the mastiff, for that matter, we would wonder and admire the composition of the piece no less. Then, bearing this in mind, what is Velázquez painting on the canvas? My image in the mirror on the back wall is not “me,” and only I can look at the people in the foreground (were they my family) and identify myself by their presence. Las Meninasè considerato un capolavoro che consente più letture stratificate. Who is he? This article focuses on the ways in which Foucault's Las Meninas has been represented and critiqued in art‐historical texts and endeavours to gauge its significance to the discipline, in particular, the “New Art History” of the 1970s and 1980s. Velázquez, Foucault e l’enigma della rappresentazione, di Alessandro Nova Scritto da Eleonora Manzo 22 Apr, 2009 at 08:47 PM Di fronte ad un’opera d’arte come Las Meninas, che Diego Velázquez realizzò nel 1656 e che oggi può essere ammirata al Museo del Prado di Madrid, si sente immediatamente che This article focuses on the ways in which Foucault's Las Meninas has been represented and critiqued in art-historical texts and endeavours to gauge its significance to the discipline, in particular, the "New Art History" of the 1970s and 1980s. We must remember that he is painting the King and Queen, after all. But, inversely, 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 place, the observer and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange. What it does imply, is that Foucault’s thought is often taken in pieces and employed for various ethico-political issues—something he certainly would have welcomed—and that these ethico-political issues, which are the consequences of his thought, are what thinkers like Merquior and myself consider problematic; not in themselves, but in their faulty epistemic and ontological claims. No gaze is stable, or rather in the neutral furrow of the gaze piercing at a right angle through the canvas, subject and object, the spectator and the model, reverse their roles infinity. Foucault's Las Meninas lends itself well to a critique of lines of sight from both an art history and contemporary fashion advertisement perspective (although I was surprised, following a quick bit of research into published articles, that this model of Foucault's had not been used in advertising - maybe more research would reveal that not to be the case, though). The painting is self-aware and holds control over representation. Notice also that for Foucault, “mirrors, reflections, imitations, and portraits,” are synonymous with “resemblance” and “representation”: All a void. The size of the canvas in the painting was not a typical scale for Velázquez, and the only painting by him with a canvas of this size is Las Meninas! Look at how the light shines on them in their reflection in the mirror: They are presumably standing where the light is shining on them, since the mirror shows their faces with light. More importantly, the difficulty is not entirely senseless. This interpretation is also plausible, but it still does not explain why Velázquez chose to compose the painting in this particular manner, and it still requires Velázquez to imagine what the royal couple is seeing, whether or not they are the subject of his painting on the left-hand side of the piece. Carl Looper 10 February 2006 [email protected] The first is an accessory; the second, essential to the painting. He was born on 15 October 1926 in Poitiers, France as Paul-Michael Foucault to a notable provincial family. The King and Queen can always be reminded of this fact—the importance of their perspective—because the painting itself gives them two options every time they look upon it: either focus on the people present at this very moment, in the foreground, or look back to see themselves hung up against a dark wall with other older paintings. What took place before and after our arrival is forever hidden from us. Ma questo a Diego Velázquez. We are, of course, not that important; the lady-in-waiting who is looking directly at the Infanta and the undisturbed mastiff make this point clear enough. We might say, no: He is clearly looking at a mirror (apparently a giant one, at that) in order to paint everyone that we see in the painting, just as painters often used mirrors to paint themselves (van Gogh, for example). And representation, freed finally from the relation that was impeding it, can offer itself as representation in its pure form.[6]. We, therefore, do not exist without these conceptions, and these conceptions underlie society. The scene takes place in the artist's studio, located in the old chambers of prince Balthasar Charles in The Royal Alcazar of Madrid. Lo stesso discorso non vale però per i musicisti ed i poeti. Maybe Velázquez's intention is to demonstrate how classic forms of representation can redefine the concept of space. These are just some details about Las Meninas that make the work a true masterpiece (we haven’t even discussed the subjects of the paintings that hang on the walls of the room, or the theories behind the reason why the royal couple’s reflection in the mirror is blurry, when Velázquez could have clearly painted a sharper reflection), but we have to move on to an actual interpretation of the painting, besides just basking in its brilliance. In other words, we do not recognize ourselves through mere representations, portraits, or pictures, but through the encountering and recognition of the very people who surround us. He would have to get into the heads of the couple to envision what they are seeing. The painting facilitates our envisioning of a three-dimensional space even when there is none in reality. Para Foucault, “Las meninas” es un intercambio de miradas entre el pintor representado en su obra y el espectador. That there is no clear subject, moreover, is indicative of the “necessary disappearance of that which is [the painting’s] foundation.” In other words, the alleged subjects of Las Meninas, the King and Queen, are absent from the painting, even if they are dimly depicted in the back mirror, and this fact—their absence—stands as a “void” right at the center of the painting because they are not actually there in the space. Scholars describe “Las Meninas” as an embodiment of art itself within a painting: It is the philosophy of art depicted on canvas. This exchange is what establishes an object-subject relationship where one can take the place of the other. What do we see in Las Meninas ? Look at Las Meninas once, twice, and then a third time, and you will pick up on details that were most surely missed at the first glance. His aim was to dismantle Western thought by removing its veil called civilization, revealing underneath an ugly truth: almost every western convention is actually centered around control and hierarchies of power, what the Brazilian intellectual historian and critic of Foucault José Merquior called a “romantic denigration, as passionate as that attempted by Herbert Marcuse, of Western reason.”[4] Merquior also sums up Foucault’s popularity the following way: The main reason for the impact of Foucault seems to lie in the very content of his work. A thorough technical investigation including a pigment analysis of Las Meninas was conducted around 1981 in Museo Prado. Are just some of the questions that take flight when we admire Velázquez' canvas. In Les Mots et les Choses, or The Order of Things, Foucault famously makes the claim about the “death of man.” There is no such thing as the self, he asserts, and it is precisely this anti-humanist conception of consciousness that is key to understanding his interpretation of Las Meninas. The little boy in the right hand corner of the painting kicks the dog next to him. The Imaginative Conservative is sponsored by The Free Enterprise Institute (a U.S. 501(c)3 tax exempt organization). This vision is a sharing of reality and subjective experience, and we’d be fools to ignore its origins in the author. Il dipinto viene conservato nel Museo del Prado, a Madrid. Perché? Our efforts to understand what is happening in this piece are connected to our efforts to understand him and his vision. I chose the artwork “Las Meninas” Painted the Spanish Painter Diego Velázquez in 1656 . That we cannot see the subject of the painting is an “inseparable” fact from our own invisibility. Analysis of Las Meninas Diego Velazquez was court painter to King Philip IV during the early era of Spanish Baroque art (1600-1700). Everything else is oriented towards her, including the gaze of her parents. Summary. Las Meninas could thus be seen as an initial attempt to portray the Infanta as a powerful, divinely elected potential ruler, a difficult image to put over in the highly patriarchal Spanish society. Velizquez' Las Meninas LEO STEINBERG (Self-addressed memo: Explain under what circumstances this piece was com-posed, why it was shelved, ... Foucault's "Les Suivantes" is the first chapter of his Les Mots et les choses, Paris, 1966 (englished as The Order of Things, New York, 1973). The painting has a … He is painting them, and the people in the foreground of the painting are simply watching the royal couple pose for their portrait. ‘In The Order of Things, Foucault investigates the modern forms of knowledge (or Velasquez: Las Meninas, reproduced by courtesy of the Museo del Prado. Meninas. This essay, then, will offer an analysis of the painting, followed by two interpretations: that of the famous philosopher, Michel Foucault, and my own. He took as notable subjects sexuality, madness, medicine, clinics, and correctional facilities, among many other things. The painter is observing a place which, from moment to moment, never ceases to change its content, its form, its face, its identity. Michel Foucault From: The Order of Things From: Ch 9 Man and His Double ... general grammar, natural history, and the analysis of wealth were all, in a sense, ways of recognizing the existence of man ... assigned to him in advance by Las Meninas, but from which his … Velázquez’s painting was never about us or the absence of us—the point remains that in either of these interpretations the painting continues to be about us in one way or another. In 1692, the Italian Baroque artist Luca Giordano deemed this piece to be “the theology of painting,” a phrase that was later clarified by Giordano’s friend and Velázquez’s biographer, Antonio Palomino, as meaning “that just as theology is superior to all other branches of knowledge, so is this picture the greatest example of painting.”[1] These are quite the remarks for a painting that is not as easily envisaged as Mona Lisa. Here, then, is one point in which Foucault and I agree: The “self” does not exist in isolation. Subject: Reading the Order of Things - Las Meninas Since Monday comes to me before most of you, I guess I'd better start. (Gifts may be made online or by check mailed to the Institute at 9600 Long Point Rd., Suite 300, Houston, TX, 77055. It is arguably the most famous painting by this leading painter of the Spanish Golden Age, namely for its intriguing composition (though my personal favorite is still his Portrait of Juan de Pareja). Negations, in other words, are only meaningful when they have a belief to destroy; they are subject to belief and, therefore, cannot exist without it. Michel Foucault provides a very engaging analysis of the painting Las Meninas. It is a subject of its own. After reading chapter 3 "Representing" seems to be more clearer what was the whole point of starting with Las Meninas and writing the previous analysis, but still not being capable of grasping all the content, can someone explain what is the actual relation of Las Meninas and classical representation?. Most people don’t get it right the first time. This exchange is what establishes an object-subject relationship where one can take the place of the other. The point Velázquez might be making is something deeper and, perhaps to Foucault’s chagrin, against the self insofar as it reminds us that we recognize ourselves through the familiar other, not by staring at a mirror. Nothingness is as much a belief as anything else. Which Consisted of Oil on Canvas. Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube. Las Meninas also inspired Picasso. Así se da una relación constante entre el objeto y el sujeto en el que uno toma el lugar del otro. 22 Mar Foucault’s Take On One Of The Most Puzzling Painting In History Of Art To Foucault, Las Meninas is an exchange of perspectives between. The Courtauld Gallery in London owns Manet’s famous painting that so engaged Foucault. Tutti pensano che i pittori e gli scultori siano dei semplici artigiani. The mirror reflects the king and queen of Spain, Philip IV and Mariana of Austria, not to mention that the painter appears in his own commissioned work, and most importantly, he is painting inside the painting —on a huge canvas whose front part remains unseen. The featured image is “Las Meninas” (1656–57) by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Because we can see only that reverse side, we do not know who we are, or what we are doing. And, finally, Foucault summarizes his analysis of Las Meninas by concluding his concept thus: It may be that, in this picture, as in all the representations of which it is, as it were, the manifest essence, the profound invisibility of what one sees is inseparable from the invisibility of the person seeing —despite all mirrors, reflections, imitations, and portraits… Did Vincent van Gogh really paint his own version of da Vinci's Last Supper in his painting Café Terrace at Night? Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher. To put it, no doubt, too simply, asserting the self implies that there is a foundation, a founding, for our thoughts. He is staring at a point to which, even though it is invisible, we, the spectators, can easily assign an object, since it is we, ourselves, who are that point: our bodies, our faces, our eyes. Once we free this image from the “relation that was impeding it”—the relation being to ourselves, the subject, “man,”—we can see these representations in their “true” form: that is, in their construction and artificiality, lacking a foundation because, of course, there is none. The world seems to have accepted that this painting depicts the visit of infanta Margaret Theresa to her parents, the aforementioned king and queen. I pittori non se la passano bene. Las Meninas was among Velázquez’s final works, and speaks to the fact that he was no ordinary court painter. Velázquez, then, is painting a scene that portrays the process of painting in the very piece we are looking at while also painting a “portrait” of the royal couple, albeit not directly. Although noted for both his history painting and genre-painting (bodegons), he is best-known for his portraiture - completing over 20 portraits of the King along with others of the Royal Family and their friends. [2] See the Museo del Prado’s own description of Las Meninas. Though greeted by that gaze, we are also dismissed by it, replaced by that which was always there before we were: the model itself. ), Nayeli L. Riano is a writer whose work reflects on literature, politics, history, art, and faith. And yet this slender line of reciprocal visibility embraces a whole complex network of uncertainties, exchanges, and feints. Apart from revealing this ugly truth that there is no such thing as “man” in the humanist sense, dismantling the individuality of man allows for deconstructionists to uncover our true, unconscious thoughts. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Not everyone might be familiar with the original Spanish title for Diego Velázquez’s famous painting, The Ladies-in-Waiting (1656). Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Or is he leaving and has been surprised by the arrival of his majesties? Isn’t the subject of the painting the princess at the center? There is another potential, perhaps small, problem with interpretations of the painting that claim that Velázquez is painting either the young princess or the royal couple on that canvas, but certainly not the very painting we are looking at: If Velázquez is not painting Las Meninas on the large canvas that we see in Las Meninas, then how do we account for the size of that canvas? In this piece, he offers two things: One to us, the viewers, and another to the royal couple. Las Meninas according to Foucault's analysis presents a fascinating conception of the act representation representing itself (I think) and that is why I've included my analysis here. This assertion, perhaps, is Foucault’s landmark. The art world is full of surprises and mysteries that, perhaps, will never be completely revealed. Let’s move on to his analysis of Las Meninas. The presence of those objects that are mysterious, enigmatic, or invisible to the spectator stands out more than the visually represented objects in the painting. He decided to come up with a series of 56 paintings that try to provide a new explanation about the details of the original painting by reimagining each one of them. This article focuses on the ways in which Foucault's Las Meninas has been represented and critiqued in art‐historical texts and endeavours to gauge its significance to the discipline, in particular, the “New Art History” of the 1970s and 1980s. And, finally, Foucault summarizes his analysis of Las Meninas by concluding his concept thus: It may be that, in this picture, as in all the representations of which it is, as it were, the manifest essence, the profound invisibility of what one sees is inseparable from the invisibility of the person seeing—despite all mirrors, reflections, imitations, and portraits… [i]n the midst of this dispersion which it is simultaneously grouping together and spreading out before us, indicated compellingly from every side, is an essential void: the necessary disappearance of that which is its foundation—of the person it resembles and the person in whose eyes it is only a resemblance. The spectacle he is observing is thus doubly invisible: first, because it is not represented within the space of the painting, and, second, because it is situated precisely in that blind point, in that essential hiding-place into which our gaze disappears from ourselves at the moment of our actual looking. The series is made up of 58 works: 45 interpretations of the work Las Meninas by Velázquez (isolated figures, heads, groups of characters and interpretations of the whole), the 9 paintings of The pigeons (works about the dovecote and the views that he had from the studio of La Californie in Cannes where he painted the whole series), three landscapes and the portrait of Jacqueline. Follow her on, The Democratic Impulse of the Scholars in Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, Puddleglum, Jeremy Bentham, & the Grand Inquisitor, Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and the Immortality of Art, “Persuasion’s” Principles for Popping the Question, It’s Giving Tuesday: Please Make a Gift to Us Today, Europe Must Not Succumb to the Soros Network. Nel dipinto Las Meninas, Diego Velasquez ritrae la famiglia reale, che posa per uno dei tanti ritratti realizzati dall’artista come quello esposto al Prado che ritrae la figlia di Filippo IV. Is it true that the right side of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam is an anatomic representation of the brain? Where is he going? Velázquez has let us in—he painted the piece, after all—but we know only for a brief moment. This can make us think he wants the animal to stand up and receive the distinguished guests. This is no two-dimensional painting, even though, by definition, it is painted on a two-dimensional canvas: The chamberlain standing at the doorway, José Nieto Velázquez, is either descending or ascending stairs and leading our eyes toward the space beyond the back of the room (the vanishing point, not by accident, is also at the doorway). If Velázquez was meant to paint a portrait of their Majesties, which is most likely the case, what better portrait than to depict the actual subject of their love, their daughter, and her place in this very moment as she is surrounded by so many familiar faces, reminding their Majesties of what they are seeing in the midst of being captured and portrayed for posterity? [3] Foucault’s name might be associated with postmodernism or deconstructionism—a correct assumption. Un altro celebre ritratto dell’Infanta Margherita si trova al Louvre di Parigi. A Concluding Response to Foucault’s Study of Las Meninas, If any credit should be given to Foucault, it is that his interpretation of this piece of art is hard to understand. “Life itself” was how Las Meninas was characterised by Velázquez’s 18th-century biographer Antonio Palomino, who was able to name all the people in … Stylistically, Las Meninas is like the sum of the best parts of all of Velázquez's earlier paintings. Velázquez, Foucault e l'enigma della rappresentazione (Las) è un libro di Alessandro Nova pubblicato da Il Saggiatore nella collana L'arco: acquista su IBS a 12.35€! In realtà, si tratta anche di una operazione … The familiarity and self-recognition of the royal couple, and their centrality as the subjects of this painting come not from their identical portrait in the back wall (it is identical, after all, because it is a mirror), but from the people in the foreground. His initial observations are no different from the ones mentioned above. To ground a book on a painting analysis, or at least to encapsulate a concept within an interpretation of a painting, seems to me a telling sign of personal significance: something about this piece resonated with Foucault and inspired him. Instead of man being the origin of his discourse and thought, as Descartes argued and as most German idealist philosophers expressed after him, discourse and thought—directed and constructed by powerful orchestrators—have insidiously made our conception of man. In Las Meninas, then, we have a series of illusions of appearances, but the trick for Foucault is that there is no origin. It might also turn out, then, that Foucault’s analysis of Las Meninas, so determined to establish the absence of a subject, is ironically self-centered. The Museo del Prado, which houses Las Meninas as its crown jewel, describes it the following way: This is one of Velázquez’ largest paintings and among those in which he made the most effort to create a complex and credible composition that would convey a sense of life and reality while enclosing a dense network of meanings.[2]. The painting is of large room, and there are several figures within it. Las Meninas means “maids of Honor” in Spanish. What is the real meaning of this scene? Postmodern art and literature, for that precise reason, find meaning in their lack of meaning, going so far as to deliberately avoid meaning at all costs, resulting in a mish-mash of words or images aimed at conveying this very meaninglessness: our life’s futility, “signifying nothing,” to quote the man and author who understood this reality long before Foucault. [6] Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (London: Routledge, 2006). The intention, and existence, of the author, to use this controversial phrase which Foucault refuted, is important not because it can settle the debate for us once and for all, but because everything we see originates in his vision, which, by the virtue of all art literary, visual, or musical, becomes our vision. It will focus specifically on the importance of Foucault’s examination of Velazquez’s painting to art historian Svetlana Alpers’s (3) 1983 essay “Interpretation without Representation, or, The Viewing of Las Meninas” (4) and to Bryson’s 1988 book of essays titled Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France within which Foucault’s examination of Las Meninas appeared. The window on the right side that is shining light into the foreground helps us to grasp the depth and size of this room, but is the royal couple standing in front of the window or further back? Nothing objective we can know, be it a subject, a man, an origin, or a truth. There is something there, and it is the point that there is nothing there. Quale? This origin, and the ascertained primacy of all origins, is what Foucault rejects. What is the problem with the “self”? Margaret, who is in the center of the painting, looks at her parents and bows in reverence.Â. Perhaps the painting he is working on is the very one we are now looking at? The painter is turning his eyes towards us only in so far as we happen to occupy the same position as his subject. There is no original subject, no original person, which is to say, no original “man” to initiate this sequence of illusions or of representations. Being able to summarize Foucault’s analysis of Las Meninas is rewarding, because it feels like one finally understands this lofty, hyper-metaphysical, and enigmatic frame of mind that is Foucault. Evidence to support this interpretation is found both in contemporary documents, and in certain elements in the painting: the emphatic emphasis on the Infanta, for example. Foucault came to the scene at a time when French philosophers, instead of making philosophy more rigorous along the analytic lines of their English friends, opted for a philosophy that combined the human sciences, avant-garde art, and literature. It is interesting to note that Joel Snyder's criticque of Foucault, which relys (in part) on a strict geometrical analysis of Las Meninas, nevrtheless fails to register this mutiplicity of strictly *geometrical* viewpoints. I may not know the people in the foreground of Las Meninas, but I know that their significance to the “subject” of the painting would have been similar to the significance of seeing this same painting with my family in the foreground. Michel Foucault does not need much of an introduction, but a brief background on his philosophy might be helpful. Almost life-size. Las Meninas, therefore, serves as a reminder of this delusion: The belief that there is always a person, or subject, present. A discourse on power and on the power of discourse—what could be more attractive to intellectuals and humanities departments with an increasingly entrenched radical outlook, yet who have also grown sick and tired of the traditional pieties of left revolutionism?[5]. Your donation to the Institute in support of The Imaginative Conservative is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. It attempts to represent elements of all kinds through the imagery and the interaction of each character's gestures and faces with the spectator looking at the painting. Entonces, ¿qué es lo que Velázquez está pintando en su cuadro? Seen or seeing? Then, bearing this in mind, what is Velázquez painting on the canvas? Ha tutte le c… It might turn out, then, that Foucault was reading his own views into Las Meninas after all and despite his alleged “death of man.”. Please consider donating now. What does Velázquez, the author, offer in his painting, then? But there is a problem. How close are we? In other words, what we are seeing in Las Meninas is the King and Queen’s view. Foucault tells a story to describe what is going on in the painting. We are witnessing a painting come to life, but from the perspective of the person being painted. Art's history is riddled with unanswered questions. After all, they are the reason behind the artistic endeavors of the author.Â. Could it be the thousands of spectators that have had the privilege to behold his painting over the course of time? The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. This very subject—which is the same—has been elided. The opaque fixity that [the painting] establishes on one side renders forever unstable the play of metamorphoses established in the centre between spectator and model. These paintings can be currently found at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Of all the interpretations of this painting to juxtapose to my own, why choose Foucault’s? For one, he dedicated the entire first chapter of his popular work, Les Mots et Les Choses (1966), to analyzing this painting. Just like his early bodegones, the paintings is marked for its intense, Caravaggesque chiaroscuro, a limited and somber palette, a photo-like realism, and remarkably loose, free, unrestrained brushstrokes. But it was also never about the royal couple as the subject of the painting, despite their “technically” being the subject of the painting. Where does he come from? He worked on these paintings from August 17 to December 30, 1957. I mark the key words and sentences in boldface: In appearance, [the painting’s] locus is a simple one; a matter of pure reciprocity: we are looking at a picture in which the painter is in turn looking out at us. To us, he offers temporary displacement. For example, how many people are in the painting? Apparentemente, è un semplice ritratto di corte. Vuole diventare famoso ed affermato come pittore. Diego Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” has taken its rightful place as one of the most fascinating artworks to analyze in the whole of Western painting. To them, he is offering what I can only describe as a moment of “life,” or “reality” to capture and keep, perhaps also a message to them and us. Their Majesties’ perspective is much more important than the perspective of everyone else because of the moment it captures: several family members, or friends, present that only they can recognize and feel sentimental toward (we should note that the title of the piece for some time was La Familia). Foucault insists that Las Meninas, being an example of the Classical representation, re-sembles the painter's thought communicated metaphorically in the invisibility of the But the point of diversion comes from the realization that the self exists relative to the people and places that are our own. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. In The Order of Things, p ublished in 1966, Foucault begins with a lengthy discussion of Las Meninas, a painting by the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. In Las Meninas, Velazquez uses the light to play with complex gazes by concealing the most important subject of the painting. The mirror right next to this vanishing point, which depicts the royal couple, however, immediately takes our eyes and mind in the direct opposite direction and forces us to envision the space in front of where the painting takes place; that is, the space that comes out right at us, where we stand alongside the king and queen, maybe even behind them. Check out paintings of horror only the brave can admire, or delve into the human fixation on revenge and how it's been part of many artworks.Translated by Andrea Valle, {% $moment(article.publishedAt).format('LL') %}, paintings of horror only the brave can admire. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? The painting is also quite a visual illusion: On the left-hand side, we can see Velázquez himself, depicted in the work, painting on a huge canvas. Velázquez also seems to stop painting his mysterious canvas to bow a little to the left and receive their Royal Majesties. To Foucault, Las Meninas is an exchange of perspectives between the painter depicted in his own work and the spectator. He is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably the human sciences. “Man” is a concept that has been constructed and continues to accumulate meaning along history’s trajectory until we place a definitive stop to it. In the most metaphysical sense, then, Velázquez painted the truest portrait of King Philip IV and Queen Mariana by painting Las Meninas, or La Familia. Thanks in large part to 18th-century art historian Antonio Palomino and his 1724 book on Spanish painters, we know quite a bit about the people and the physical space pictured in Las Meninas . Las Meninas. The analysis revealed the usual pigments of the baroque period frequently used by Velázquez in his other paintings. It is important to consider the vast size of this painting: 318 x 276 cm. To Foucault, Las Meninas is an exchange of perspectives between the painter depicted in his own work and the spectator. Viene considerata l' opera maestra del pittore andaluso, e venne terminata, secondo lo storico dell'arte Antonio Palomino, nel 1656. At the back stands the most mysterious character in the painting: who is that man in black entering the room? He is hard to understand, and that is why people love to read him. Anche al centro di questo dipinto si trova la bambina accompagnata da dame di corte. LAS MENINAS and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange. That’s enough of Foucault’s postmodern philosophy. A mere confrontation, eyes catching one another’s glance, direct looks superimposing themselves upon one another as they cross. The intrigue of the piece comes from the dual sense of intrusion and belonging. Besides the mystery behind the perspective and composition of the painting, there is another element that adds to Velázquez’s genius in this piece: Consider the depth that it achieves. We are standing in a room in another place and another time, within a particular setting and among company we’d likely never have found ourselves. When the two monarchs enter the studio, their image is captured by the mirror in the back of the room. Summary . But Velázquez shares this moment in perspective in Las Meninas not mainly to let us, the viewers, in. While this is by no means an impartial depiction of Foucault’s project, Merquior’s description of Foucault’s popularity (and my implied use of Merquior to introduce Foucault in this essay) does not ignore his influence and, perhaps even, the reason in his work. Just as Derrida’s grammatology (which was eventually renamed “deconstruction”) was based on structural linguistics, Foucault took this concept and applied it to history. Siamo in Spagna, 17° secolo. [3] José Merquior, Foucault (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 12-13. How close is the royal couple from them, then? We do not see them, however, except for their reflection, granting us a privileged vantage point that only they could naturally occupy. Loro vengono ammirati e stimati continuamente. Most scholars and fellow painters describe Las Meninas as an embodiment of art itself within a painting: It is the philosophy of art depicted on canvas. [1] Barry Schwabsky, “A Painter of Our Time,” The Nation. He presents his analysis in such a way as to make the viewers feel as if they are looking at a mystery, and at the same time feel as if they are a part of that mystery. Was the face of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa really inspired on his lover Gian Giacomo Caprotti instead of Lisa Gherardini? We, the spectators, are an additional factor. There is an air of familiarity, but also of estrangement, since we are clearly not the ones being painted: It is their Majesties. This question has been at the center of numerous interpretations of the painting, and Las Meninas has taken its rightful place as one of the most fascinating artworks to analyze in the whole of Western painting. This method, however, be it artistic or philosophical (we might say they are one and the same) reaffirms the human tendency to seek meaning of any sort. And yet, how could we fail to see that invisibility, there in front of our eyes, since it has its own perceptible equivalent, its sealed-in figure, in the painting itself. Or is he painting us, the viewers? All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Foucault about Las Meninas Michael Foucault was a French philosopher, historian, intellectual and a critic. They have a wonderful interactive web page through which you can scroll, enlarge and highlight different aspects of the painting, with background information and much more.. Defert (se below) says that Foucault considered the painting the inverse of Velásquez’s Las Meninas. Da molto tempo il mestiere dell’artista viene spesso disprezzato o sottovalutato. But, then, how do we account for the couple that is reflected on the mirror on the back wall, King Philip IV and Queen Mariana? Foucault's subtle writing about it.1 We shall offer a deconstructive reading of this ever-enigmatic painting proceeding from Foucault's interpretation in Les mots et les choses. Unless, of course, he was imposing his own philosophical views on the work; but that would be disingenuous, so I’ll assume that Las Meninas helped Foucault to make sense of one his central ideas, rather than the other way around. This void, Foucault tells us, is the disappearance of the person, but this disappearance is not just imaginary: Even if there were a clear subject or person in the painting, it/he could never be real: Only a resemblance. Yet, the light is also shining on the ladies in the foreground. Either he composed the whole work from imagination and memory, or he made use of a combination of mirrors to paint himself and the audience watching the royal couple being painted and also included the royal couple. LAS MENINAS (in italiano Le damigelle d'onore) è un dipinto a olio su tela di 318 × 276 centimetri realizzato dal pittore Diego Velázquez. Of course, then comes the question: Who, or what, is everyone looking at? As for Las Meninas, Velázquez is the truly the mystery behind the painting. But then there is a shift in Foucault’s description of Las Meninas. Lui ha un obiettivo. The painting has drawn attention for centuries, not only because of its impeccable technical execution, but also for the position and gazes of the characters featured in it. Another interpretation is that Velázquez is not actually painting the royal couple; rather, he is preparing to paint the Infanta Margarita Theresa (the young girl at the center of the painting in the white dress) when, all of a sudden, the royal couple comes in, interrupting everyone’s actions as they freeze to acknowledge their monarchs. Last Monday, when the reading started, was my 53rd birthday. How can we be sure these rumors are true?Among all the mysteries in the field of plastic arts, few paintings have generated such complex debates for art critics and audiences like Diego Velazquez' 1656 painting Las Meninas. She is a Ph.D. student in political theory at Georgetown University and holds degrees from the University of St. Andrews (M.Litt, Intellectual History) and the University of Pennsylvania (BA, English and French Studies). Foucault's Las Meninas Here is an abridged (and minus citations) version of a subject I presented in class. Now, the picture begins to come to life: Their reflection indicates, by logic, that it is this royal couple that is posing for Velázquez. He writes: The painter is looking, his face turned slightly and his head leaning towards one shoulder. But here’s the catch that I find incredible: If it is the case that the painting is a depiction of what King Philip IV and Queen Mariana are seeing, then how did Velázquez paint this scene?

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