The Maids of Honor

I love art. Art in all of its forms. It stimulates the senses and the mind. I love haunting Gregorian chants in a dark medieval cathedral; a beguiling adhan at dawn; song lyrics that make you cry; wall murals on a street corner; ancient rituals; children’s preschool drawings; a good conversation.

Today, I want to show you my favorite painting. It is Las Menias (The Maids of Honor) painted in 1656 by Diego Velazquez, the best artist from the Spanish Golden Age. Spain was the most powerful empire in Europe at the time, and with its great wealth artists flocked to the court for patronage.

There are several write ups regarding this painting, so I will not go into heavy detail on it; just enough for need now.

The little girl in the front is Infanta Margaret Theresa, the 5 year old only child of King Philip IV and his second wife, Marianna of Austria. Around her are two handmaids, two dwarfs, and her dog. Her chaperon is talking to a guard. In the background, the Queen’s chamberlain has stopped on the way either in or out of the room. Velazquez has added himself on the left trying to paint this little girl as her entourage fuss over her.

Now for the truly clever part. Several of the characters are looking at the viewer, as if the painting was a still photograph of the scene. (This was not a common technique). So, why are they looking at us?

Look at the mirror at the rear of the painting. In it, you see the king and queen, the Infanta’s parents. They have just walked into the room, and several characters have turned to view them. And we the viewers are the said king and queen.

That is art for the eyes and mind.

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