Tuesday 21 May 2013

One Way of Looking at Las Meninas

I was amused to read this account by our old friend Will Gompertz of a silly stunt by former Young British Artist Mat Collishaw. I'm not surprised it only 'made the situation worse'. Suppose you were going to the Prado to see Las Meninas for the first time, what would be the best way to clear your mind of all preconceptions and received opinions about the painting and encounter it as if it were newly made in the artist's studio? Would you (a) get yourself flown to Madrid and escorted to the painting blindfold, look at the painting for three minutes, and resume the blindfold for your return journey, or (b) just go to the Prado and look at the bloody thing like anyone else? I think your chances of a genuine encounter with Las Meninas might be better (and more conveniently) served by option (b). Especially as few paintings have quite such an overwhelming presence as Velazquez's endlessly enigmatic masterpiece. One thing no foreknowledge can prepare you for is its sheer size - it is vast (3.2m by 2.76m, to be precise), and, as Toby Ferris argued in a fine Dabbler piece yesterday, in paintings size matters. Like all great art, Las Meninas effortlessly transcends all that has been said, written and thought about it - it is just there, inexhaustible. And, incidentally, worth rather more than three minutes of anyone's time.

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