Las Meninas: Contemplating reinterpretations

Last week was very full: meetings, trips, two conference, two workshops, and even a lecture on blasphemy (!) at the end. I got a bit exhausted, and abandoned this blog for a while (I had too much to write about, to too little time to do it). I will try to catch up during this week, which – at least for now – looks a bit more calm. During all these meetings and event I took about a thousand pictures, and processing those (as a preparation for writing) took quite some time.

I should have got tired from all this ‘visual processing’, but in reality I got used it, browsing through the visuals and became almost a natural state of mind. It is in this state of mind I’ve bumped into a description of a nice exhibition in the Museo del Prada, in Madrid, called Richard Hamilton: Picasso’s Meninas. It was a double homage, to Picasso himself, and then, in turn, to his own homage to Velazquez (I wrote ‘it was’, because the exhibition was scheduled till June 20, yesterday, but as I just discovered, it is extended till July 20).

Frankly, I didn’t know that the the volume of remakes and re-interpretations of the famous Las Meninas is so large; Picasso alone made more than fifty art-works in the end of 1950s, and ever since the volume’s only growing. I surfed the web a bit, and was overwhelmed with a large amount of art works, by professional, ‘serious’ artists and amateurs alike. While surfing, I started to make a slideshow, as a draft compilation of what I found. The resulted presentation is, of course, far from a complete corpus (if such is at all possible by now), but is sizable enough to make some observations and draw some conclusions.

Las Meninas is seemingly one of the most known and valued paintings in the history of art (and as such, of human civilization in general). I knew it from the childhood, but never ‘got it’ – until I read the famous opening of The Order of Things, by Michel Foucault. That was a revelational text, in many senses – not only explaining the content, but also showing how one can analyze an art work so deeply and intensively, and draw such profound philosophical conclusions.

With time I ‘grew over’ the Foucaldian analysis, I think now that although revealing very important dimensions of this work, he conceals (or rather blinds himself about) many others; but I would need more space and time to write about this in any details. Just as a thought experiment – what if Foucault would write not about Las Meninas per se, but about 50+ works after the Meninas by Picasso? Their very number, this abundance, their multiplicity would shed a light on how we think today, and how we may think in the future, the theme quite central to Summ()n (remember, Foucalut was writing about epistemology, not art critics).

Anyway, independently from the results, I enjoyed the very process of discovering such an immense variety, and creativity of the interpretations of the famous work by the Velazquez, and hope you will do, too (to see the slides, click on the picture above).

Picasso’s Las Meninas (a sketch from his notebook)

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