Las Meninas

September 1st, 1996 - September 30th, 1997

Categories: VR Art


“Las Meninas” is a painting about representation. Velasquez challenges the viewer by making the spectator the model to be viewed and vice versa. The viewer is thereby put in a privileged position but is also in an inescapable position by virtue of the point of view of the characters of the painting. The canvas is forever invisible to the viewer. VR alters this relationship, allowing us to challenge the notion of the painting - that we will always remain static in our relationship to it, by providing dynamic interaction with the elements, and the perspective that VR can provide.

“Las Meninas,” painted by Diego Velasquez in 1656, challenges the viewer with its enigmatic subject matter. The viewer faces a riddle embodied by both the subject matter of the painting itself and by the artist’s canvas which is forever hidden from the viewer. The painting raises multiple questions about the nature of representation, seeing, power, and metaphysics.

Our presentation of “Las Meninas” in virtual reality looks at these questions from different perspectives. What happens, for example, when two dimensional representation extends into a three dimensional world, and how does it affect perception? Is the viewer able to solve the enigmas in the painting when he / she is able to explore the hidden space through virtual reality, or are further questions raised?

In “Las Meninas” we examine these and other questions. We focus on the pictorial enigmas, such as the hidden canvas and the mirror. We place the painting into its historical context, and ask what it means for us today.