Las Meninas (group)

Cannes, 2nd October 1957
Oil on canvas
161 x 129 cm
Donated by the artist, 1968
Museu Picasso, Barcelona
MPB 70.465


Picasso devoted 17 canvases, small or large, vertical or horizontal, to the analysis of the Velázquez picture in its entirety, making different elements appear and disappear as he saw fit and changing the layout of the figures, and thus the relationships between them, the light and the atmosphere.

While in the first picture in the series Velázquez is much enlarged, in the later studies he becomes a hieratic secondary figure or simply disappears.

The most complex studies are perhaps those made between September 18 and October 3. Personages, objects, light and space fuse in a mass of intensely coloured geometric shapes, the alterations and multiplication of viewpoints recreating the depth and the atmosphere of the Velázquez. Picasso had previously used this style between 1953 and 1956 in his depictions of La Californie, in which the easel and brushes compete for our attention with the model and the objects and pigeons that occupy the studio, with no space left unfilled in an explosion of colour that constitutes a kind of horror vacui.

Here you’ll find a detailed and interactive approach to the first painting of Las Meninas series by Picasso. It can be visited in Room 12 of the permanent collection of the Museu Picasso.

Pablo Picasso

Málaga, 1881 – Mougins, 1973

In June 1895 he first visited the Prado museum with his father. In his sketchbook he made a copy of Velázquez’s The Buffoon Calabacillas and Niño de Vallecas. At his father’s prompting he enrolled at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid for 1897-1898. He soon became distanced from the Academy, preferring to frequent the Prado, where he applied for permission to copy the pictures. There is a notable copy in oils of a portrait of Philip IV by Velázquez, and a page of sketches with a copy of The Fable of Arachne and a partial copy of Las Meninas, also by Velázquez. During his second stay in Madrid, in 1901, he painted Woman in Blue, a clear reference to Velázquez’s Mariana of Austria (Museo del Prado), and presented it at the Exposición General de Bellas Artes that year. In the summer of 1935 he travelled in Spain, and in Madrid visited the Prado again. In November 1936 the government appointed him honorary director of the Prado. Between August and December 1957, at La Californie (Cannes), he painted the series Las Meninas, that were donated by the artist himself to the Museu Picasso of Barcelona in 1968.