Las Meninas

Painted wood, bronze, brass, copper, plexiglas, inox steel threads
193 x 159,5 x 83 cm
Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’Art moderne/Centre de création industrielle
Donated by Daniel Cordier 1982
In bond, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Paris


In this model Comar reproduces in all its details the spatial mechanism imagined by Velázquez in Las Meninas and invites us to travel round the picture to observe its perspective and its several vanishing points by transforming a flat surface into a three-dimensional structure. If we accept the invitation to look through the peephole and adopt the viewpoint of the spectator, we virtually take the place of the model that Velázquez is painting in his canvas.

In making the model the artist was trying ‘to recreate a perceptible space on the basis of an infinite number of directions, but the picture only recomposes itself for us from a single point of view. Here the observer is overlaid with this double figure, being both model and mere spectator, at once facing the mirror and facing the door. The room in which Las Meninas is set is reconstructed in the model as a space that grows narrower, like an optical pyramid whose furthest point would coincide with the real vanishing point and whose base would be the plane of the picture.’ (Philippe Comar, ‘Les Ménines’, Opus International, no. 83, Paris, December 1981-January 1982).

By means of a mesh of wires constructed according to the sightlines of the picture’s personages, it thus offers us the opportunity to contemplate the scene from three points of view: that of the spectator who is looking toward the palace chamberlain, José Nieto, standing on the threshold of the doorway, whose body coincides with the central vanishing point; that of the king and queen, who are looking into the mirror, and that of Velázquez himself, whose gaze switches between the large canvas painting and the model and the observer outside of the composition. Between José Nieto, the real vanishing point, and the mirror, the false vanishing point, is the infanta, who in her turn is looking toward the king and queen, who have just arrived on the scene, and her playmates, María Bárbola and Nicolasito Portusato.

Philippe Comar

Boulogne-Billancourt, 1955

Artist, writer and professor of Morphology at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He has exhibited at the Musée national d’Art moderne-Centre Georges Pompidou, at the Venice Biennale (1986) and the Műcsarnok Kunsthalle Budapest (1999). He has also worked as a set designer for the Ópera national in Paris. Many of his works are devoted to perspective and the simulation of space and the body and its representation.