2010. február 25., csütörtök


(about two etchings: "Velázquez Spectaculum", 1998, 265x496 mm, and "Johannes de Eyck fuit hic", 1998, 340x254 mm) Possibly the most famous and the most often analyzed painting is Las Meninas by Velázquez. The Ladies in Waiting. In this painting the backside gets a role. In order to find out what does the other side of the huge canvas show, we have to notice the mirror placed on the back wall of the dark room. In the mirror two faces are reflected. They must have been standing pictorially unrepresented in the invisible foreground because the artist who is obviously painting the portraits of these two people is looking out of the picture towards us. Therefore these two people were standing at this side in front of the canvas and the painter is looking at them. We viewers are now standing in their place which is a great honor as the two people depicted were in fact Philip IV., the Spanish king and queen Marianna. This couple may remind us of another couple in another picture. Let us imagine to switch the position of the royal couple and the painter, so they would stand in the focus point of the painting and Velázquez would appear only in the mirror. We could get a well-known composition, similar to the one Jan Van Eyck used in creating the Arnolfini couple. They are the second couple: Giovanni and Giovanna. The structure of the Van Eyck painting – quite familiar to Velázquez because it was a precious piece of the royal Spanish collection at that time – surely influenced the composition of Las Meninas. And the philosophy of the Van Eyck painting also had an impacton the way of thinking of Velázquez. Maybe this phrase seems to be a bit bold. I think I have to explain what I mean by the philosophy of the Van Eyck painting. Let us remember the famous convex mirror hanging in the center of the Jan van Eyck painting just behind the Arnolfini-couple. In the mirror you can easily recognize the painter just leaving the room. On the wall above the mirror there is a notice in Latin: “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic”. Johannes de Eyck has been here. Let us try to interpret the mysterious text along with the mirror as if we put the elements of a puzzle together. It would sound like this: Johannes de Eyck has been the mirror here. This is not only the ars-poetics of the younger van Eyck but also that of art in general and the most explicit formulation of the artist’s role. So maybe it is not that daring to speak about it as philosophy. And when I am telling that Velazquez is the follower of this philosophy I’m thinking of a brave, perhaps complacent gesture as he appears in the axis of the composition of Las Meninas, excluding the royal couple from it. He knows very well that he questions the traditional relationship between model and depiction – what is more reality and illusion – which have been considered everlasting, but at the same time he also knows that he has the right to do so.

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