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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Act 2, Scene 5

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.

The glass doors facing the street are open, to catch the cooler evening air. We hear the shuffle of feet as tourists and locals stroll in quiet conversation and occasional laughter, snapping photos with everything from cell phones to expensive SLRs with impressive lenses. Nothing moves on nearby canals. A few tables in front of the restaurant are now occupied as are all of those inside. This has become a comfortable, now bustling room full of pleasantly tired and appreciative diners. Each of those in our little group seems entranced by the colourful dishes around the table, the mouth-watering aromas of the seafood and fish dishes and their seasoning. While all are enjoying the excellent food and wine, conversation returns to issues in the arts.

Diego, I can't tell you what a thrill it is to be sitting with you and Pablo, having dinner together. And since we are somehow magically in a way, together, there is a question I simply have to ask; I hope you don't mind. It's one that scholars and artists have been wrestling with for, what ... centuries? (Picasso nods and grunts his agreement as he works lobster from its shell). The question is about the painting we call Las Meninas – you referred to it in your inventory of the king's collection as La Familia. Well, I think it's safe to say that people have been seriously analyzing the painting since its creation ... the Baroque painter, Luca Giordano, for example – funny, the Italians called him Fa Presto, because he worked with such speed – he definitely saw the painting as a masterpiece. I suppose he may have been particularly interested, having studied under your friend, Ribera. He must have wondered about the painting's structure just as we do today, unless you explained it to him personally on one of your visits here, that is. Maybe you can settle this for us once and for all. 

Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez, 1656

I'm referring to the image of the royal couple, the one hanging discreetly on the far wall to the left of the doorway where your cousin, I think, stands on the stairs. The image could, I suppose, be a double portrait, but the general consensus is that it's a mirror. The question is whether you are at work on a huge portrait of the king and queen who stand in front of you, and it follows, in our space – the viewers' space; or are you working on a portrait of the child and the king and queen are in the studio, watching you work as Philip often did, and they are simply curious and interested? OR, are you at work on this painting itself? And still more ... it could be a self portrait. What are you painting? That's really the question.

Velazquez (smiling broadly, a fork in one hand, a piece of bread in the other)
Well, you are correct about its being a mirror - the image on the back wall, that is. It is flattering that my work has attracted such attention over all these years. Pablo, does this interest you? What is your guess about this question that David asks?

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Historically accurate anecdotes are especially welcome.