Art and Act

Diego Velasquez's Los Meninas  is considered by some to be a modern painting.   Executed in 1656, it captures a moment in time.  The artist shows himself in front of a large canvas as he paints a portrait of the King and Queen of Spain, whose  reflections can be seen in the mirror in the background.   Visiting the salon is the Prince Margarita and her meninas or maids.  But who is the nobleman exiting the room through a staircase in the background of the painting?  Velasquez employs chiaroscuro, light and dark to lead the viewer's eye throughout the image.  Below we can see Picasso's abstracted adaptation in black and white.  The scale of his artist is gigantic!

Pablo Picasso, Las Meninas, 1957

Eve Sussman's video "89 Seconds at Alcazar" was exhibited at the 2004 Whitney Biennial.  Pairing a viewing of her work with an analysis of the painting and a recreation of the painting either as a tableau vivant, or as in Picasso's reinterpretation could make for a meaningful unit of art history for secondary students.  Please scroll down to see the video.  It is stunningly beautiful.


  1. Dear Patricia,

    Nice blog, but 89 seconds on youtube is a copyright infringement and I've been trying to get them to take it down. Could you contact me at I can send you a still image to post in place of the video. Sorry to be a downer, but we try to preserve the quality of the presentation as much as possible.

    Very Best,


  2. oh...i would have loved to see this video but yes i understand..
    i really like the Picasso's vision of this classical painting.
    it's funny to see here in Spain, how the meninas became so representative of Spanish art heritage (used and reused in advertising continuously)

    i went to your other blog Abyssal Plain...Lovely Japanese illustrations !

  3. I've always loved this painting and didn't know about Picasso's rendition (!) so thank you for that. I enjoy this painting so much because there is so much to read in each character. In that regard it reminds me of a painting at the De Young Museum in San Francisco called "The Russian Bride's Attire"

    It's a very large painting and I seem to find something new each time I stand before it.

    Shame about the video. Where might we see/purchase this video?


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