In his article, “Interpretation without Representation or The viewing of Las Meninas” Svetlana Leontief Alpers tries to differentiate Las Meninas from other art history forms. Alpers agree that Velazquez’s Las Meninas is iconographic as it is among the greatest pictorial representation in Western paintings. He advances his argument by stating that there is structural organization on various ways used to interpret the art of history that make Las Meninas unthinkable in art history. He advances his argument by using two things that make Las Meninas unique.
- First, Las Meninas focuses more on the representation of the painted world in a more realistic way. This is because the viewer is included in the paintings by the presence of a frame that intersects the room whose floor, window, and ceiling bays extend. Las Meninas is of snap shot because the individual’s appearances on the photo seem to look directly at the person viewing it. In fact, the author quotes Stirling Maxwell who said that the Las Meninas anticipated Darguela.
The author also suggests that Las Meninas is more pictorial in expressing ideas than narrative. This is because he uses the example of the women located at the margin in the middle of two spaces of the spinners to distinguish between a glance and a stare.
- His second line of the argument lies in the fact that the situation sets precedence for what the subject of the word has a lot of meaning in history. For instance, Las Meninas is more concerned with presenting the information basing on the situation at hand and this presents the subject of the work. The problem is not based on identifying the characters in the paintings but the presence of reflections, which mark the presence of the Queen and King, raise the problem. This is no immediate source of the reflection.
Throughout his text, the author uses rhetorical questions to captivate the reader and to make them engaged. For instance, why should this be so? The author displays the Las Meninas as a formal art rather than an aesthetic. For instance, at the closing pages of the article he laments that Las Meninas is the demonstration of the use of framing –frames in the form of pictures.
Meaning of the Painting
On the other hand, the author goes ahead to state that it is from the plot of the painting that the meaning of the painting is derived rather than from the nature of the image representation. Therefore, it is evident that Las Meninas today has been interpreted to be a new form liberal art and nobility on the painter himself. The author states that documentation evidence shows that most of the Spanish painters struggled to bring change due to the low professional status of their work, which made them work under financial constraints. The author goes ahead to state that Velaquez’s claims are problematic in that he is not able to place a cutting line between art and craft.
In addition, the author continues to give recommendations that would help in bringing the current meaning of Las Meninas to its status. It is against the evidence that the king and the artist are said to be represented together, with their proximity being termed as the central part of the work. Secondly, the separation of appearance and meaning in art history is seen to be the concern of modern viewers. The insistence on the separation of meaning and representation makes Las Meninas to be endemic to art history. The author uses the Dutch painting of Fabritius haunting sentry, which show a soldier loading his gun as he dozes off and his expectant dog beside him. This of course has the meaning that can be derived from virtual visualization and cannot be rendered meaningless.
The author goes continues to state that some art historians are making paintings, which do not have moral, professional, or social basis. In recent times, he presents this as a threat to art history in delivering messages and supporting his argument by stating that students who use texts have shifted their attention to such artist for building literary forms from them. The author describes the apparent risk that faces art history as a creation of the art’s ancestor, Panofsky, who said that the corner stone of art history is iconographic. This means that the pictures are not supposed just meant to be perceived but can have a deeper meaning. However, the question of what to do with the pictorial surface is raised by the author. However, Panofsky avoided this question.
According to the author, the question is answered by art historians in stylistic terms. For instance, Gombrich treated representation as a matter of skills, skills in perception and rendering. He argues that Western art pictorial conventions act as the perfection of naturalistic representation, which he calls illusion. Gombrich concludes by referring to perfect representation as being indistinguishable from nature to people eyes. Gombrich goes ahead to credit the perfect representation as the one making images disappear. However, the question of representation resurfaces on the perfect illusion that Velázquez gives of the painter.
The author goes ahead to oppose other commentaries like Foucault’s who argues that the lack of a subject viewer is tremendously essential for classical representation. This according to Alpers is wrong in that because the reciprocity between the worlds in view and absent viewer is not produced by lack of human subject, as Foucault argues but by the Velaquez’s ambition to use two conflicting methods of representation with each one of them forming a relationship between the viewer and the word in view differently.
The author states that Las Meninas, the Looker in the picture not only looks out but also this is none other than the artist himself. The only extraordinary thing he says is the representation must be taken first as replica of the world and as makeover of the world that we see through the window frame. His explanation is that being the commanders of the presence of the world seen is before us.
The elements of Las Meninas share are unresolved ambivalence because of its economy. The author states that the ambivalence may be the basis for representation of the Spanish court to them. Velázquez gesture of choosing the little infant at the centre of his masterpiece is seen by Burke Kenneth as Velaquez’s art or an indication of how he viewed the court. Considering the scale of size, the author states that there is no measurable quantity that rules in that situation. The presence of the house cleaners bending to her size and a dwarf of the princess despite her being the centre of attraction. Having dealt with issues of lineage in an earlier portrait Velázquez seemed to rehearse for Las Meninas. In Las Meninas he states, it is not only about the size. However, the mirroring of the queen and king determined the nature of their presence. At court, order is presented by representation acts.
Alpers also tried to display the revelation of misrule in court by using Velaquez’s Balthazar’s Carlos which had a dwarf. The dwarfs and the fools in court were expected to challenge etiquette, which was misrule. The author tries to draw a relationship between the dwarf in the Balthazar Carlos portrait and that in Les Meninas. He did this so that he can come up with the possible meaning of the short princess and the dwarfs’ presence in the latter version.
The author uses the rhetoric, does art fair frame. The portrayal of the future king and dwarf in Velázquez work is questioned because it is he who provided the framework to the work. However, he supports his argument by saying that the prince is dependent on art framing while the dwarf remains resolutely free of it, which presents the difference between the two.
Alpers concludes his argument by drawing a conclusion that Las Meninas is a work that is intended to show the role of framing in art history. According to him, it is hard to see the double vantage point offered by the Las Meninas where social order, self-representation, and the production of art are visibly displayed and in which framing plays a key role. The queen, king and their daughter are revealed by framin
The author has managed to persuade the audience on what Velázquez shares with sixteenth century artists. He seemed to understand the complex condition of both social and aesthetic did not undermine his trust in it. Therefore, it is evident that Las Meninas today has been interpreted to be a new form liberal art and nobility on the painter himself. The author states that documentation evidence shows that most of the Spanish painters struggled to bring change due to the low professional status of their work, which made them work under financial constraints. The author goes ahead to state that Velaquez’s claims are problematic in that he is not able to place a cutting line between art and craft.