Thursday, September 29, 2011

Velazquez's Image of Arachne's Image

Velazquez, Las Hilanderas

I wonder if anyone ever knew more about mirrors than Diego Velazquez.

A more precise title for this blog post would be: "Velazquez's image of Ovid's image of Arachne, and Arachne's image of Europa as seen via Velazquez's image of Rubens' image of Titian's image."

I'd never seen or heard of this painting of his before -- it's called The Spinners. Click to make it larger -- it's quite something. Apparently it interweaves two moments of the Arachne story, and for good measure, throws in a tapestry image of the rape of Europa.

The tale of Arachne inspired one of Velázquez' most interesting paintings: Las Hilanderas ("The Spinners, or The fable of Arachne", in the Prado), in which the painter represents the two important moments of the myth. In the front, the contest of Arachne and the goddess (the young and the old weaver), in the back, an Abduction of Europa that is a copy of Titian's version (or maybe of Rubens' copy of Titian). In front of it appears Minerva in the moment she is punishing Arachne. It transforms the myth into a reflection about creation and imitation, god and man, master and pupil (and therefore about the nature of art).
Let's bear in mind this "reflection" of Ovid as we read the poet's own version. Clearly Book 6 is grappling with "creation and imitation, god and man, master and pupil," and therefore is very much about the nature of art.

Titian, Rape of Europa

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