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What does the famous painting "Menina" by Velazquez have in common with Sergei Yesenin and Isadora Duncan
What does the famous painting "Menina" by Velazquez have in common with Sergei Yesenin and Isadora Duncan

It would seem, what could be in common between Velasquez's "Meninas" and the photograph of Sergei Yesenin with Isadora Duncan and her adopted daughter? It turns out that behind this lies an interesting and slightly mysterious story.

When in 1899 the main - basilica - hall of the Prado Museum became the Velasquez Hall (to the 300th anniversary of the main genius of Spanish painting), a separate extension with a large window on the right was made for the Menin: the “real” window continued the row of windows in the picture. Natural light and pictorial light together created an unprecedented illusion, which was complemented by the mirror opposite: everyone could be reflected in it together with the Infanta Margarita and her retinue.

Hall of Velazquez in the Prado Museum

In the era when Velazquez was considered an example of naturalism, the forerunner of impressionism and the most "relevant" artist among the old masters, this installation - one of the first in the history of world museum practice - amazed the audience.

Diego Velazquez "Meninas"

The great actress Eleanor Duse spent all her free time in Madrid in the Menin Hall, running out of excess of feelings into the central gallery shouting: “Here it is, the true Theater!”. Eleanor Duse was well acquainted with Isadora Duncan and even predicted that if the dancer does not abandon the stage, misfortunes await her, and most importantly, she should be afraid of machines.

But the answer is not in this, but in the further history of moving the main picture of the Prado. The new director of the museum decided to demolish the temporary extension - yes, the sanctuary of the masterpiece, but unacceptable temperature fluctuations - and in 1910, the Meninas were moved to the basilica hall to the other forty works of Velazquez. Connoisseurs complained that it was impossible to fully comprehend the magic of the masterpiece in such a picturesque "crush". And only eighteen years later, after the reform of the museum and the appearance of a new gallery, the "Meninams" were again allocated a separate hall.

The solution to the space remained the same: the window on the right and the mirror opposite, only larger and in the same frame as the painting itself (the illusion of the “Infanta's visit to the photographer” was additionally accentuated). In addition, the walls of the hall were draped in a new fashion with a luxurious fabric by Mariano Fortuny with silver and gold threads. Similar draperies can be seen in Venice in the Fortuny Museum - Palazzo Pesaro Orfei - where the fashion designer and designer lived since 1902. Fortuny made fabrics, lampshades with silk cords, but became especially famous as an innovator in fashion - he abandoned the S-shaped silhouette line of the Art Nouveau era and was one of the first to use the theme of the Greek archaic: a tunic made of fine pleated silk. His "delphos" - variations of the Greek chiton - are still considered one of the most stable types of fashionable clothes: the house of Fortuny produced them practically unchanged from 1900 to 1949.

Sergei Yesenini and Isadora Duncan with their daughter

Interestingly, it is in Fortuny's delphos that Isadora Duncan and her adopted daughter Irma are photographed. In the Menin hall, Fortuny's draperies (one can fantasize that Infanta Margarita also dreamed of delphos …) remained until 1956, when the masterpiece again moved to a new hall, where there was also a window, a ray from which fell on the picture - and a mirror to double the illusion … Only in 1978 did the "Meninas" take their current place in the "altar" of the central hall of the Prado Museum, without any installations that distract from the inner game of concepts contained in the painting itself.

Photographs from the 80s show the drapery of the Basilica Hall (no longer-Fortuny), but bedbugs were found in the fabric, to the horror of the keepers.Since then, after urgent repairs, the walls have been modestly painted in a noble gray-green color. Nothing distracts from the contemplation of "Menin".

You can learn about this and much more from lectures by art critic and Spanish philologist Tatiana Pigareva.

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