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Contrasting & Comparative Analysis: Jan Vermeer and Diego Velazquez

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Contrasting & Comparative Analysis

During the Western European Baroque movement, Jan Vermeer and Diego Velazquez were two significant artists. "The Music Lesson" a painting by Vermeer and "Las Meninas", a painting by Velazquez, compare significantly but also share contrasted traits. While both "Las Meninas" and "The Music Lesson" are defined by their use of mirroring, light and realism, the fundamental differences of both works are outlined by the artists use of subject matter, room decor or set up and the shift in foreground and background reflection; using indirect and direct perspective. Both paintings express great contrast and comparison with one another whilst being both denotative and connotative in their description.

Vermeer's "The Music Lesson" is considered elegant, compositionally harmonious and well constructed. The piece itself shows a great depiction of depth through the illusion of perspective using light. "The Music Lesson" houses two figures; an older male figure, dressed elegantly in a black jacket trimmed with white lace and a younger female figure dressed in a navy and red gown with a white blouse. The female is denoted as the student of the male figure. To the viewer the painting also denotes a "The Music Lesson" being taught by the older man. This is shown in Vermeer's use of illuminated instruments. The instruments include an old wooden boxed keyboard with black and golden detail painted on it. The female stands in front of the keyboard whilst her instructor examines her. A wooden cello rests on the ground behind the young woman. The cello although not being used is still considered an important item that references the theme of music and playing. Vermeer uses domestic items in his paintings, such as the table cloth coloured in red and gold, the white vase adorned with gray shadows, the dark marble floor to emphasize a lived in space. Vermeer's use of perspective in his work implements depth to both the walls and the marble floor. He uses it throughout the foreground and background to create separation between objects and the figures.

The painting "Las Meninas" by Diego Velazquez, is a baroque derived, realist image. The first aspect of the image that the observer is drawn to is the awkward stare of the young girl in the middle of the image. Around this central figure, one notices nine other subjects who are tending to the young female. The other characters included are two court midgets or otherwise known as jesters, a priest , a nun, what are considered the central figures older siblings or maids, a royal guard and oddly enough Velazquez. All the people within the image support that the young girl is that of royalty. The young girl is illuminated as the central figure of the piece. The areas around her are darkened, thus increasing her importance. Her clothing is white, suggesting purity, youth and innocence. The gold on her outfit again denotes wealth. Within the piece there are many examples of clothing that signify status. The two female siblings or maids of honour are dressed in dark blacks and browns detailed in white lace. The jesters are both wearing red and black. The nun is wearing a traditional black and white gown while the royal guard in the background seems to be sporting a black jacket and black pants. Velazquez, himself, is wearing a black jacket with white sleeves. In Velazquez including himself and the following subjects in his piece, he suggests this painting is being completed as royal commission or for that of someone who has royal authority. Various other objects found in the room that denote this a royal family portrait include the lush surface of the drapery, the gold trim on the door as well as the large walls and the massive paintings that are hanging on them. Referring back to his self portrait, Velazquez looks towards the viewer. In his use of the gaze being expressed by both himself and the young girl, he invites the viewer into the work, connotating that he wishes for one to see what is being developed on his secret canvas. The use of perspective in "Las Meninas" suggests a sense of depth with light that has been exaggerated on the drapery and the exaggeration of shadows on the walls behind everyone. He includes a mirror found on the back wall. There is an indirect reflection of a couple, denoted



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