Putting Las Meninas into Words

After writing a tiresome and somewhat enjoyable 1140 word report on a painting that I had learned about in AP art history class so many years ago and of course saw in person, I wondered why I chose that painting. Could it be that I was truly awe inspired by it? Or was it a painting I felt I was never truly able to describe in any scenario other than in an AP art exam? I realize it was both those things and something else. The painting connected me to a younger self.

By describing and researching the painting, it made me remember the spark I had when I first discovered that words could open the meanings of images. However the ability to construe those concise words has always eluded me until this assignment. Describing the physical qualities of a painting isn’t hard, in fact there is even a fill in manual for that in any AP art exam. However to fully express the meaning behind those physical qualities is, especially in the case of Las Meninas.

The main issue lies in the fact that the painting requires me to convey a multidimensional moment to the reader as efficiently as possible. Since the painting assumes that the viewer could be in many different perspectives at once (both in and out the painting), the order of descriptions is crucial. I had to clearly define what a “dimension” is and explain how one dimension follows to another, as if such an order is definite. For example in my blog’s fourth paragraph I described the order of dimensions by beginning with the viewer’s perspective to Velázquez’s to the King and Queen’s, but it could might as well be the King and Queen’s perspective to Velázquez’s to the viewer’s . The order of how these dimensions are perceived varies individually, but I can’t express all possibilities or else my argument will be all over the place. To be an effective writer, I had to assume there is only one logic, but in art there is no such case.


Another fallacy of being concise is that I failed to include the viewpoints of many other figures such as the princess’s, her meninas’s and the figures in the background especially the man in the doorway. But again if I do so, the blog’s fourth paragraph would be massive. The order of dimensions would be massive and the descriptions of dimensions would be redundant.

Nevertheless, art compels the viewer to form their own thoughts, by limiting those variables my writing could never be the full experience. It only serves as an abstraction formulated by my view.

The last thing I felt my writing was lacking occurred to me when I read Helen’s draft in class. She began her art encounter by not describing the experience but rather the region where the experience occurred. Her approach was more personal because she described the region by explaining what she saw in the car ride to the concert. Before reading Helen’s draft, I believed writing about my experience in Museo del Prado isn’t as effective as explaining the historical context. But now in reflection, I believe by including memories of the museum and how the people beside were reacting to the piece, my writing would be more interesting and more suitable for a blog.

In conclusion, writing about Las Meninas has not only helped me re-visit past mistakes in writing, but also made me more aware the limitations of writing about art and the importance of physical and historical context.

589 Words