La infanta Margarita María

c. 1656
Oil on canvas
105 x 88 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Gemäldegalerie


In 1656 the infanta Margarita María, daughter of Philip IV and Mariana of Austria, was the heir to the Spanish throne. It is hardly surprising, then, that Velázquez not only chose her as the central figure in Las Meninas, but portrayed her on several occasions.

This work is closely related to Las Meninas —the princess is the same age in both, and wears an identical dress and ornaments— but differs from it in the treatment of the atmosphere and the luminosity. Framed between the dark floor and background and the red drapery to the right, the figure has been modelled with gentle, precise brushstrokes with carefully considered tonal effects, which emphasize the centrality of the personage by making her stand out from her surroundings.

Several versions of this work were made in the artist’s studio.

Diego Velázquez (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez)

Seville, 1599 – Madrid, 1660

Trained in Seville, in the studio Francisco Pacheco. Summoned by the Count of Olivares, he moved to Madrid in 1623 and was appointed painter to the king. Dating from this period are a series of royal portraits and a few portraits of unidentified personages. On his first trip to Italy (1629-1631) he painted his two admirable landscapes of the Villa Medici, and on his return radically changed his technique: he stopped modelling forms precisely in favour of suggesting them, exploiting the visual effect to the full, and enriched his palette.

In 1643 he was appointed Valet to the king. On his second trip to Italy (1649-1650) he painted a number of portraits. Dating from his later years dating are several portraits of the royal family, notable for their chromatic richness and excellent handling, characterized by a remarkable syntheticism in which forms, light and volume are defined with a few brushstrokes.