For all that museums are going through at the moment—financial hardships due to covid-19 closures, reckoning with their ingrained colonialism, rewriting the art historical canon to include women and BIPOC, reckoning with a spate of questionable deaccessioning, dealing with issues of social justice and diversity both externally in programming and internally with staff composition—I still believe in the transformative power of art.
If you have been following along, you know that there have been three times in my life when my jaw dropped in response to a work of art. The first was in a college art history class looking at a slide of an Edouard Manet still life of lilacs in a vase. The second time was in the tiny garden behind Charles Demuth’s Lancaster home over which an enormous church steeple looms. I've written posts about both of these moments; hope you check them out.
The third time my jaw dropped was while standing in front of Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas, 1656, at the Prado in Madrid. Of the three moments, this was the most surprising occurrence for me. My love for Demuth is such that I spent my senior year in college writing my thesis on him. And who doesn’t love a beautiful still life by Manet? My reaction to Las Meninas surprised me because I have no training in art of the seventeenth century, have never taken a class in Spanish art of any sort, and only know what I’ve read in the skimmiest way possible. The combination of my lack of knowledge and my reaction to it means, for me, Velasquez’s painting is the ultimate example of transformative art.
I have avoided writing about the painting because of my lack of knowledge. There’s a lot to pull apart while attempting to get at its meaning and why it is visually so spectacular. But recently a link to an article about it crossed my feed. So, here’s that article, which I encourage you to check out. Also, if you ever find yourself in Madrid, don’t miss Las Meninas at the Prado.
Diego Velasquez (Spanish, 1599-1660)
Las Meninas, 1656
Oil on canvas
318 x 276 cm (125.2 x 108.7 in)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.