Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The artist in work

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velazquez
The Family of Felipe IV or Las Meninas
, 1656
oil, 318 cm x 276 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado

image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Velazquez moved beyond the singular portrait. The painting can be seen as snapshot of a scene in which the artist works with the young Infanta Margarita (center) and her attendants. He stands to the left side of the canvas looking directly at the viewer. The reflection in the mirror on the back wall portrays the king (Philip the IV of Spain) and queen who are, possibly, along with us viewing this very scene. There is a play between reality and illusion in the painting which is one of the many reasons for our fascination with it over so much time.

Velazquez was court painter to King Philip, and while this image relates directly to that post we are unsure as to the true subject of the painting.

I got myself in a little too deep with this choice, so I apologize if I leave you hanging a bit. Due to the importance and popularity of the painting you can find information about it most anywhere and I recommend doing so if your interest is peaked. While this is not, in essence, a self-portrait in the manner of other ones you will see this week, and elsewhere, it is an excellent example of the context in which many artists place themselves, in both their work and society.

Detail of self-portrait
courtesy of wikimedia commons

If you have been following any of the links I include you will notice that I often use wikipedia. While I probably don't need to justify this, in the climate of research and librarianship, i feel i should acknowledge it. For a beginning touch upon a subject I (and I am sure many of you) find it extremely useful. It is usually one of the richest overviews (oftentimes much more than an overview) that you can find without more extensive searching (or access to a particular database or book) and I have found the included images extremely helpful. I recently read a very interesting article about using wikipedia as a springboard for teaching research skills. (Bennington, Adam. "Dissecting the Web through Wikipedia" American Libraries (August 2008) Analyzing the content, following the references, and then discussing the positives and negatives of the wiki article. Anyhoo, there you have it. Enjoy!

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