In this sad, ugly world we should stop and appreciate the beauty that people create. Poetry is a mostly unappreciated art form these days, and yet we can enjoy it and learn from it, even if most people fucking hate it.
Painting is another art form people don’t really appreciate much. People go to museums because they think they should, or it’s something to do with visiting relatives, or it’s on the tourist itinerary. But you can just look at and enjoy paintings, and while most aren’t great, you will find a few gems you can enjoy the beauty and expression of.
“Las Meninas” (“The Ladies-in-Waiting”) was painted by Diego Velazquez in 1656. It’s a scene from the royal household of King Philip IV of Spain. The king liked dwarves, and invited dwarves from all over Europe to come live with him, and two are seen at the right side of the painting. This particular painting has been written about exhaustively by art scholars, but a few of my own unlettered observations follow.
It’s 350 years old, and yet it’s somehow modern- a painting of a painter painting a painting. Self-reference is not new. One thing I just thought of was its humorous aspect- it’s a pretty wacky bunch. The dwarf on the right is bugging the dog, who wants to sleep but is too tired to get up and move. The ladies-in-waiting have the harried, distracted look of those busy sucking up to rich people. The little princess is little-princessing serenely in the center of it all. The painter looks at us, and the subjects of his painting, the king and queen. (The painting that he is painting himself painting, not the painting he is painting.) Everybody is busy doing something or being something. The only person who seems to be in the here and now is the dwarf woman, second from the right, who is fully engaged with the painter.
Velazquez made a number of paintings of the dwarves in the king’s household, and these reflect a deep humanity. I think Velazquez had a special connection with these people, that allowed him to show them intimately as individuals.
Beauty is truth- people like that one- and truth is beauty- people hate that one like a demon hates holy water. Enjoy beauty where you find it, it’s a unique gift of being human.