Velázquez Painting the Infanta Margarita with the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory

Oil on canvas
153,7 x 92 cm
Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc. St. Petersburg, Florida


Salvador Dalí manifested his admiration for Velázquez from a very early age. In 1919, while still a schoolboy, he began a series of portraits of the great masters of the past, of note among these being the painter from Seville.

He regarded Las Meninas and The Fable of Arachne as supreme instances of genius and milestones in the history of western art.

When Dalí began Velázquez Painting the Infanta Margarita with the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory, Picasso, whom he had met in 1926 and for whom his feelings were a mix of love and hate, had already completed his extensive series Las Meninas. Dali, like his predecessors, was captivated by the charm of the infanta and made her protagonist of his picture, distorting the proportions of the composition to make her bigger and, unlike Picasso, making the figure of the artist smaller and depicting him from behind at work on a canvas that in its turn represents the infanta, a device used in the 17th century by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo in his The Artist’s Family.

He made a number of interpretations of Velázquez’s famous work: in 1958, this work, and in 1960, a version of Las Meninas; he took part in the exhibition ‘Oh Figure. Informal Homage to Picasso’ in the Sala Gaspar in Barcelona, and put on the show ‘The Secret Number of Velázquez Revealed’ in the Carstairs Gallery in New York. In the 1970s he produced several stereoscopic paintings and holograms, now to be visited in the Teatre-Museu Dalí in Figueres, among which the hologram Holos! Holos! Velázquez! Gabor! is a double tribute to Velázquez and Dennis Gabor, the inventor of holography. In 1981 and 1982 he painted several versions of the Infanta Margarita, notably The Pearl, after ‘The Infanta Margarita’, Velázquez and a Figure and The Infanta Margarita María by Velázquez appearing in the Silhouettes of Horsemen in the Courtyard of El Escorial. He also produced several works on the subject of the royal chamberlain, José Nieto.

Salvador Dalí

Figueres, 1904-1989

Trained at the municipal art school in Figueres and at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Madrid, where he frequented the Residencia de Estudiantes, establishing close friendships with Buñuel and García Lorca. In the late twenties he moved to Paris and became the most brilliant Surrealist painter. In 1940 he moved to New York and consolidated his international reputation. His penchant for histrionics and self-advertisement, together with his politics, led to his expulsion from the Surrealist group. On his return to Spain in 1948 he settled in Port Lligat. His painting was grounded in Noucentisme, and after a period influenced by Cubism he adopted what he called a ‘critical-paranoiac’ method: dreamlike scenes executed with a painstaking technique, influenced by Metaphysical painting.