The Fable of Arachne, c.1657 | Velazquez | Painting Reproduction
The Fable of Arachne, c.1657 | Velazquez | Painting Reproduction

The Fable of Arachne, c.1657
Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez (1599-1660)

Location: Prado Museum Madrid Spain
Original Size: 220 x 289 cm
5/5 | 1 Review
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Oil Painting Reproduction

SKU: VDZ-1059
Painting Size: $1038.00
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Las Hilanderas is a late masterpiece by the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez, painted for Pedro de Arce. The private patronage of the painting has caused it to be shrouded in some mystery, one uncertainty being its date of creation. Stylistic elements, such as the lightness, the economical use of paint, and the clear influence of the Italian Baroque, have lead many scholars to assert that it was painted in 1657. Others place it earlier, at some time between 1644-50, perhaps because certain aspects of its form and content recall the bodegones Velazquez painted in his early career.
The second ambiguity concerns the subject matter. Traditionally, it was believed that the painting depicted women workers in the tapestry workshop of Santa Isabel. In 1948, however, Diego Angula observed that the iconography suggested Ovid's Fable of Arachne, the story of the mortal Arachne who dared to challenge the goddess Athena to a weaving competition and, in losing the contest, was turned into a spider. This is now generally accepted as the correct interpretation of the painting.
In Las Hilanderas, Velazquez developed a layered composition, an approach he had often used in his earlier bodegones, such as the Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. In the foreground is the contest. The goddess Athena, disguised as an old woman, is on the left and Arachne, in a white top facing away from the viewer, is on the right. Three helpers assist them. In the background, a raised platform (perhaps a stage) displays the finished tapestries. The one visible to us is Arachne's, showing The Rape of Europa - another Greek myth. This is in fact a copy of Titian's version of the subject, which was in the Spanish royal collection.
The painting has been interpreted as an allegory of the arts and even as a commentary on the range of creative endeavor, with the fine arts represented by the goddess and the crafts represented by Arachne. Others think that Velazquez' message was simply that to create great works of art, both great creativity and hard technical work are required. Other scholars have read political allegories into the work.

Reviews (1)


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Gygy
Velazquez - The Fable of Arachne (Las Hilanderas)

Painted between 1644 and 1648, the painting represents a scene in Juan Alvarez' tapestry and carpet workshop in Madrid.

In the background hangs a tapestry with a representation of Ariadne, in which Veronese motifs appear. The mythological title, attested by ancient sources, is valid only for the tapestry; for the picture as a whole the title of Las Hilanderas, the Tapestry Weavers (caught at their work in the textile factory), is more justified. Here, too, the over-all composition is of an extreme simplicity: two diagonal lateral wings, lighted in contrast to the shadowed background; in the centre a triangular figure against the light, contrasting with the background illuminated by a vivid blade of sunlight; stepped planes moving in alternate lateral jumps towards the background. The scene is a striking close-up. As in the master's last period, and through the impulse derived from his Italian visits, Velazquez, without abandoning his Caravaggesque compositions of linked masses and dialectics of light and dark, is more and more attracted to the pictorial freedom of the Venetians.

He is taken by their direct impasto, quivering brushwork, the charm of a dense, warm atmosphere rendered by nuances and reflections. The approach permits an improbable perspective (elsewhere the perspective is strict and measured) to obtain a more intimate movement on all sides - the weavers and the women - with the pulsating effects of light which gives a vitally cheerful movement to the scene. Here are seen some of the most exceptional and original renderings of movement, as in the hand of the girl on the right, which is multiplied to indicate its gesture, and in other parts that are veiled or caught in action, like the spinning-wheel.
20th December 2015 1:36pm

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