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Saturday Art: Francisco de Goya Unsuccessfully Copies Las Meninas

1:00 am in Art by Ruth Calvo


Las Meninas, etched from Velasquez by Goya

(Picture courtesy of wikipedia commons.)

Last week’s post about Velasquez’ universally acclaimed painting, Las Meninas, commented about later artists’ emulation of the work.

Francisco de Goya had such good taste that when he attempted to repeat Velasquez’ art, and was defeated in his efforts, he went on to do other, successful, work.

To a remarkable degree, Goya’s art was his own invention. Only his fellow countryman Velázquez might have claimed credit for his achievement. In 1778, Goya created a group of etchings reproducing the palace collection of Velázquez’s portraits of royalty and their retinues, among them the most admired of his grand and flamboyant canvases, Las Meninas. In this seemingly surreptitious portrait, the Infanta Margarita Teresa, coddled by her nannies, is presented from the viewpoint of her royal parents, who pose before the painter. (The couple are reflected in the back-wall mirror.) The spatial and tonal complexities of Velázquez’s magnificent large picture ultimately proved daunting to Goya, who tried to approximate them on a much smaller scale and in black and white. Without the color and substance of oil paint to aid in the definition of so cavernous a room, illuminated by brightness entering through front windows and an open doorway in back, the composition’s middle ground collapsed. Goya captured admirably the delicacy of the wistful infanta’s features and her finery, ably characterizing her handmaidens and other colorful members of her entourage, but the vast recesses of the gallery-turned-painter’s studio defied description.

After worrying over his etching plate with successive lines and layers of aquatint in an attempt to achieve the proper depths of black, Goya finally abandoned the overworked plate; only a handful of proofs survive to track his intensive efforts. In all, Goya had intended to produce twenty-one etchings after Velázquez, but only eleven were published.



I will be checking in when possible, but am away this weekend and busy with visiting the Smithsonian and surrounding attractions in D.C.

Saturday Art: New Twist to Family Dinners

7:00 am in Art, Culture by Ruth Calvo

Warning: This may not be safe until after you have the family dinner.

Unusual solution to problems with inheritance.

Goya painting of Saturn instituting a different course to inheriting the throne, and dinner.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Maybe your family dinners aren’t quite as dismal as some of others’ have been, but the traditional Christmas dinner has been known to reflect all the joys of Goya’s painting.  I believe most of us have been exposed to this artistic shock at some point, but I did have the experience of seeing it in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, with a friend whose family had some of the characteristic’s of Goya’s vision into Saturn en famille.

Various interpretations of the meaning of the picture have been offered: the conflict between youth and old age, time as the devourer of all things, the wrath of God and an allegory of the situation in Spain, where the fatherland consumed its own children in wars and revolution. There have been explanations rooted in Goya’s relationships with his own son, Xavier, the only of his six children to survive to adulthood, or with his live-in housekeeper and possible mistress, Leocadia Weiss; the sex of the body being consumed can not be determined with certainty. If Goya made any notes on the picture, they have not survived; as he never intended the picture for public exhibition, he probably had little interest in explaining its significance.

Quite possibly, your family dinners have happier endings for all involved.   The position of heir/heiress is often frought with conflict, and I suspect that most families have seen situations that reminded us of our beginnings as a species, and what we might resort to under extreme stress.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →