ON THE CONTENT OF VELAZQUEZ'S 'LAS MENINAS'
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Las Meninas, a work of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez of 1656, has been the subject of a flood of interpretational studies. Initiated by Antonio Palomino, the realistic notion of the representation is based on the assumption that the figures depicted, including the monarchs, actually posed for the artist. The sociological approach was inaugurated by a study by Charles de Tolnay from 1949, in which the picture was regarded as an intellectual work. A similar line was adopted by other, including Jonathan Brown who interpreted the picture as a testimony not only of the nobility of painting but also of Velazquez himself, who resorted to this kind of manifestation with an aim to being received into the Order of St. James. The first study to follow a political-cum-pedagogical line of interpretation of Las Meninas was the controversial work by Jan Ameling Emmens published in 1961, which placed the picture in the context of emblematic culture, interpreting it as an allegory of the triumph of circumspection over conceit; an approach subsequently followed by Jan Bialstocki. The philosophical interpretation was introduced by Michel Foucault in his 'Les suivantes', revealingly drawing attention to the viewer's perspective, introducing reflexions that concerned not only the author and his times, but equally the problems inherently contained in the Western way of thinking and visual representation. The multiplicity of interpretations has not led to a comprehensive understanding of Velazquez's work. Over recent years emphasis has been laid on numerous occasions that the picture was a private work, addressed to a single viewer; namely to the king. In this situation the painting's role as a manifesto of painterly nobility and of Velazquez himself should not be overstated, since Philip IV - through whose support the artist was accepted into the Order of St. James -was perfectly convinced on this question in relation to emancipated art.
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