El Blog del museo Picasso de Barcelona

The inhabitants of the museum: “Las Meninas”

Not so long ago we published a chronology of Las Meninas of Picasso, on the occasion of the anniversary of the beginning of the series of paintings that Picasso did, based around this work of Velázquez.

On various occasions we have stated that this is one of the most relevant works of our collection; even more so, given that it is the only series by Picasso, of those that he painted during the decade of the nineteen fifties, which is conserved and exhibited as a whole and has not been divided up, as it happened with the other series tackled by the artist during those years. The fact of being a direct gift of the artist to the Museu Picasso, in honour of its founder, Jaume Sabartés, makes the value of this series even higher within the context of Barcelona’s heritage.

In this text, however, we would like to talk about the personages that both Velázquez as well as Picasso painted, and to explain in short the biographies of these inhabitants of the museum.

las-meninas-velazquez
Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas, 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas, 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433

You can see a comparison of the characters of the two works in the highlights of the collection. From left to right, we can find the following characters:

Diego Velázquez: Self-portrait of the painter, who included himself in a scene of the life of the court, in an innovative gesture in the case of Velázquez and as a vindication of the importance of the artist, in the case of Picasso, who painted him as the more complex character and the biggest in size of the work. The artist paints himself with the tools of the painter (paintbrush, easel and canvas) and is wearing on his chest the medal of the Cross of Calatrava, which it seems was added afterwards by the artist himself and that Picasso also reproduced.

Autoretrat de VelázquezAutoretrat de Velázquez

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433

María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor: She is one of the two meninas properly speaking that there are in the work, that is to say, and according to the Royal Spanish Academy: «Lady from a noble family who since she was very young entered to serve the queen or the young princesses

In this case, she was daughter of the Count of Salvatierra and heir of the Duchy of Abrantes on her mother’s side. As an adult, she married the Count of Peñaranda, grandee of Spain. She bends down, offering a little jug to the princess, in a typical gesture of the palace. Picasso analyses this gesture in various of the works of this series, placing special attention on this character.


María Agustina Sarmiento de SotomayorMaría Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433


María Agustina Sarmiento de SotomayorMaría Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor

Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (María Agustina Sarmiento). 20/08/1957, 26/08/1957. Oil and traces of red grease pencil on canvas. 46 x 37,5 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.435 | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (María Agustina Sarmiento). 10/10/1957 Oil on canvas. 115 x 89 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.471

Felipe IV and his wife Mariana of Austria: The King and Queen appear reflected in a mirror at the back of the room. There are various theories about the nature of the incorporation of the monarchs: among others, that they were entering the room in the same moment or that they were posing for the portrait and that this was the scene that was developing in front of them. With this skilled twist of the point of view that the painter included in the court scene, Velázquez reiterated one of his vindications; the fact that painting was the highest level of art, at the same time as taking advantage of making known the wealth of the Spanish court in a scene which is apparently trivial and quotidian.

Felip IVFelip IV

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433

 

Infanta Margarita: The princess, who at the time that the painting was carried out was 5 years old, is the main figure of the work of Velázquez, given the fact that in that moment she was heir to the throne. She is also the first personage that Picasso analysed in his series. The princess was the character of the court who was better portrayed by Velázquez and she is also the most repeated in Picasso’s versions. Engaged from a very early age to her uncle, the emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire, these portraits served to inform about the aspect and growth of the princess. In 1666, at the age of 15 years old, she married by proxy and the empress moved to Vienna, capital of the Empire, where she died at the age of 21 years old while giving birth to her fourth child.

Infanta MargaritaInfanta Margarita

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433


Infanta MargaritaInfanta Margadira Maria

Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (infanta Margarida Maria). 20/08/1957. Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 cm. Donació Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.434 | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (infanta Margarida Maria). 14/09/1957. Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 cm. Donació Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.459

José Nieto Velázquez: He was the aposentador of the queen; that is to say, the person responsible for the separation and selection of the rooms for the members of the royalty and of the location of the offices and bedrooms for the palace residents. The painter Velázquez was, for his part, the aposentador of the king. José Nieto served in the palace until his death. In the painting he is placed at the back, in front of an open door where the light slips in, and it doesn’t remain clearly defined whether he’s entering or leaving the room. Picasso takes on the ambiguity of the gesture, and turns him into a shadow which is present in the majority of the works. In the works of the series The Doves, painted during a break from the obsession of Picasso for Las Meninas and to which they are formally linked in the composition, it could be considered that the black dove makes a reference to the aposentador.


Jose Nieto Velazquez Jose Nieto Velazquez 2

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433

Els Colomins

Pablo Picasso. The pigeons. 06/09/1957. Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 cm. Donació Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.450

Isabel de Velasco: Daughter of a family with close ties to the royal court. Her father, don Bernardino López de Ayala y Velasco, VIII count of Fuensalida, had been squire of the king and her mother, lady in waiting of the queen. The exact date of the birth of Isabel de Velasco is unknown, she was married to the Duke of Arcos and died in 1659, after having been lady of honour of the princess. In the work of Velázquez we can find her in an attitude of curtsying; a gesture that Picasso examined in various of his versions. The last work of the series is a small representation of this character which was coincidentally the character which the first wife of Picasso, Olga Khokhlova, interpreted in the ballet Las Meninas of the Russian Ballets, a production of 1916 with music by Gabriel Fauré.

Jose Nieto Velazquez Isabel de VelascoIsabel de Velasco

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433 | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (Isabel de Velasco). 30/12/1957. Oil on canvas. 33 x 24 cm. Donació Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.490

Marcela de Ulloa: She was the person charged with watching over and taking care of the maidens from around the Princess Margarita. In the painting she is represented in clothes typical of a widow and is conversing with another character half in shadow. This is the only element of the painting in which she isn’t identified and of whom the only thing which is known is that she exercised as a guardadamas (a sort of lady protector) which according to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language was «an employee of the royal household, whose main task was to go on horseback by the running board of the coach of the ladies so that nobody would be able to talk to them, and afterwards her role was limited to clearing the queen’s room in the public functions». The dress of the lady was often interpreted as that of a nun. Based around this reading of the character, sometimes it has been proposed that this was the reason why Picasso, loyal to his firm anticlericalism, represents her and her interlocutor in an almost humoristic way.


Marcela de UlloaMarcela de Ulloa:

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433

Mari Bárbola (María Bárbara Asquín): The royal court jester, of German origin, who entered the palace in 1651, the year of the birth of the princess. Thanks to the painting we are able to identify the fact that she is an achondroplastic dwarf, a disorder that is characterised by abnormally short limbs and particular facial features. In the grisaille, or monochrome sketch, that Picasso painted first on his versions of Las Meninas, the figure of Mari Bárbola is sketched and simplified and the characteristic features of her disorder are represented by the artist as a series of lines and dots very close together in the centre of the circle that represents her face. The character, however, takes on an important presence in the subsequent versions of the series.


Mari BarbolaMari Barbola2

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433


Mari Barbola3

Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (Isabel de Velasco, María Bárbola i Nicolasito Pertusato). 24/10/1957. Oil on canvas. 130 x 96 cm. Donació Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.476

Nicolasito Pertusato: An Italian dwarf of noble origin who was possibly affected by a lack of growth hormones, which would have given him his characteristic childish aspect. He was the king’s valet and it is known that he lived until he was seventy-five years old. In the painting by Velázquez he is situated in the foreground, next to a mastiff dog with which he seems to be playing with, with his foot. In the Picassian approach, this figure maintains a playful gesture, but it is now completely simplified as an black outline on a white foreground; this could be due to a ray of lateral light that enters through the windows behind his back, bleaching the figure, or because it is the figure which is furthest from the protagonist; the painter. With his characteristic sense of humour, Picasso resumes with this character and in the most divergent work of the series, The Piano, seats him on a piano which comes from the painter’s environment, from his home La Californie.

The mastiff dog is also a character in itself. In the Picassian approach, the magnificent animal presented by Velázquez is substituted by Lump (or Lumpito, as Picasso called him), the dachshund that the photographer David Duncan Douglas gave him as a present.


Nicolasito Pertusato Nicolasito Pertusat

Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva. Las Meninas (detail), 1656. Oil on canvas. 318 × 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid | Pablo Picasso. Las Meninas (detail), 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. Donació Ruiz Picasso, Pablo, 1968. MPB 70.433

 

 Nicolasito PertusatDuncan i Lump

Pablo Picasso. The piano. 17/10/1957. Oil on canvas. 130 x 96 cm. Donació Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB 70.472 | David Douglas Duncan. Picasso and Lump, 1957.50 x 60 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Donació David Douglas Duncan, 2013 © David Douglas Duncan 2015

 

 

Anna Guarro

Related links:

Do you know the inhabitants of the Museu Picasso?

Sources:

Museu Picasso, Barcelona

Museo del Prado

Wikipedia

3 Comments
  • MONICA RECODER
    November 30, 2015

    ME PARECIO INTERESANTISIMA LA VISITA AL MUSEO, PERO ENCONTRE A FALTAR LA REFENCIA DEL CUADRO DE VELAZQUEZ, PARA PODER COMPARAR Y RELACIONAR LA INTERPRETACION DEL DE PICASSO.

  • Museu Picasso
    December 3, 2015

    Buenos días Monica. Muchas gracias por tu sugerencia, en el museo decidimos eliminar las referencias a la obra de Velázquez para centrar la atención en las pinturas originales de Picasso, en lugar de en reproducciones de otras obras. Intentamos facilitar estas informaciones y vinculaciones a través de otros medios, como nuestra web o el blog.

  • Anita Rosas
    December 10, 2015

    Me encantó la exposición. Me enamoré por completo de las pinturas. Escribí una entrada en Medium en referencia.
    Saludos

    https://medium.com/@annita_rosas/de-meninas-y-mentiras-en-el-mediterr%C3%A1neo-8ce16ed1e3c0#.rmdknull8

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