Las Meninas in Chalion
Las Meninas by Diego Velasquez is a subtly disguised and masterfully executed examination of artist in social context and a paradoxical maze of illusory spatial relationships.
The paintings within the painting; the painter himself,transferred into subject from his usual translatory role while painting the very image in which he appears; the mirror reflecting the king and queen in the position held by the viewer, making the giant canvas exclusive to all but its royal viewers, the charming centrality of Infanta Margerita; those dwarfs; and despite the reflective centrality of the royal couple, all perspectival lines converge on the arm of the palace steward (another Velasquez, apparently no relation) in the doorway that reflects that mirror along the center line. A dense painting indeed.
It is for its examination of perspective and its particular subject of a fading Spanish royal court that I chose it as a model for my court portrait of the royal family (and entourage) from Bujold's The Curse of Chalion. The idea had come to me half a year earlier, but the "masterwork" assignment for Tom Mills's drawing class gave me the perfect opportunity to materialize the idea. We were to include a self-portrait in our large-scale charcoal reinterpretation of our chosen painting.
I made studies and mapped out the floor plan of Las Meninas, as well as producing five compositions of self-portrait, painting character and a Quintarian theologically significant hand.
The self-portrait in profile (perspectivally impossible, and made, with a single mirror) was reversed and used in the final drawing.
In this drawing, I replaced each personage from 17th century Spain with a character from quasi-medieval Chalion. Margherita becomes Iselle, already an echo of Isabella. One maid-in-waiting becomes Betriz, another Bergon. The foreground dwarf becomes Teidez, the dog a leopard, and the guard and nurse in the shadows become Palli and an auratic, hovering Umegat. The king and queen are roya and royina Sara. Velasquez easily becomes myself, in a highly anachronistic Chalion promotional t-shirt, gazing into the paperback. And the steward silhouetted in the doorway becomes Cazaril, but with a twist: the entire drawing is seen from his perspective, thereby rotating the entire room and revealing a back wall whose composition echoes that of the original, but that where the illusion of a mirror once excluded the viewer is hung a portrait of the author.
(this is the blurry, blemished representation, badly taped paper seams and all. link through to largest image)
and a photoshop-healed detail.