Picasso Paintings: Las Meninas

Although the earliest Picasso artwork is  showcased by Barcelona’s Picasso Museum, the Picasso paintings titled Las Meninas are the real masterpieces.

Picasso – who didn’t shrink from measuring himself against the most celebrated painters of art history – explored and interpreted famous paintings by Courbet, Manet, El Greco, and Velazquez. 

Diego Velazquez.  Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor), 1656.  Oil on canvas, 10’5″ by 9′  Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Between August and September of 1957, Picasso delved into a thorough analysis of  Velazquez’ masterpiece (left) This excercise yielded the 58 Picasso paintings that comprise his Las Meninas series.

He commented: 

If anyone were to try to copy “Las Meninas” in complete good faith, and for example, got to a certain point – and if I were the copier – I would say to myself, “If I just put this a little more to the right or left?”. I would try to do it my own way, forgetting about Velazquez.

In this collection of Picasso artwork, it’s fascinating to observe which elements from the original were preserved and which Picasso altered. 

Among the more prominent changes by Picasso are:

  • altering the picture format from vertical to horizontal, and
  • opening the windows on the right which Velazquez had painted closed. 

In Las Meninas (Group) (right), Picasso retains the two groups from the Velazquez version:

1. Agustina de Sarmiento and the Infanta Margaritz, and

2. the trio of Isabel de Velasco, Maribarbola and Nicolasito in the right foreground. His variation here is nearly stripped of all color, turning this famous painting into grisaille.

Pablo Picasso. 1957.  Oil on canvas, approx. 6’4″ by 8’6″.  Museo Picasso, Barcelona.

Picasso reinstates color in subsequent variations as he explores studies of the intact groups Velazquez presented; in other iterations, he delves into individual portraits and portraits of each of the trios. 

Pablo Picasso. 1957.  Oil on canvas, approx. 6’4″ by 8’6″.  Museu Picasso, Barcelona.

It’s a marvel to see this entire ensemble of Picasso paintings in one place… while it’s hard to believe that Pablo Picasso completed these paintings in only four months.

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Want to learn about more Pablo Picasso paintings? Explore his Girl Before a Mirror and Portrait of Gertrude Stein

And explore more Velazquez paintings here.


By |2018-03-24T18:32:25-04:00August 4th, 2010|Cubism and Futurism paintings|6 Comments

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  1. Brian Buckley August 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    “Good artist’s copy, great artist’s steal”-Picasso. This is a great lesson for those first initiated into the world of art history. After all, Picasso was inspired by Ancient Egypt and African art to invent cubism.

  2. R April 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    Where does the original Velazquez hang?

  3. Susan Benford April 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    The Velazquez painting, Las Meninas, is at the Prado in Madrid. Susan Benford

  4. George Arnold December 26, 2011 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    This series of paintings is my favorite of all Picasso’s work, and truly is the great highlight of an otherwise unremarkable collection. However I’d say that another reason to visit the Bcn Picasso Museo would be to see the restrained, tasteful and often beautiful renovation undertaken to house the collection. I apologize for not knowing the architect, however it’s so worth seeing if you’re in Barcelona.

  5. Susan Benford December 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm - Reply


    I concur that this series of Picasso paintings steals the show in the Barcelona museum.

    You’re right that the building is stunning and the renovation quite successful. The museum’s site says that the five palaces or townhouses which comprise the museum were constructed in the 13th – 15th centuries, and serve as a great example of “Catalan civic gothic style”.

    But nary a mention of the architect for any of these buildings! As the daughter of an architect, I know how often this oversight occurs.


  6. Daniel September 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    I was lucky to see both portraits in a special exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, in London when I lived there for some months. Today, I could revisit Velazquez paintings on a discussion about Art History at University.
    It’s curious that, when I saw Velazquez’s painting I could just remind of the strong feelings I had for Picasso’s review, which appalled me in a way I don’t even know how to explain.

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