Las Meninas – Composition

The Painting

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Basic Compositional Lines and Division of the Visual Field

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Use of Compositional Lines and Area Division in Object Placement

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Symmetrical Placement and Balance

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Repetition

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Environment

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Grouping

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Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez

I

Have a look at one of the most enigmatic paintings in art history, Las Meninas (1656-1659), painted by famous Baroque Era artist Diego Velazquez (1599-1660).

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II

You may have noticed in the painting the Santiago Cross on the painter’s chest.

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Santiago is the spanish name for Saint James, one of the earliest and important martyrs in Christian history. Saint James is believed to have preached in Spain, so he is not only seen as a martyr, but also as the founder of Catholic Spain. He has therefore been considered to be the protecting Saint of the Spainish lands and people. Interestingly enough, Diego Velazquez’s first name is a spanish equivalent of the name James.

Velazquez got accepted into the Santiago Order a few years after the impressive work he did with Las Meninas, and the Santiago Cross on the painter’s chest was added to the painting after his acceptance into the Order.

However, the cross was already in the painting, long before Velazquez was rewarded with it.

 

III

When one analyzes the composition carefully, one detects that the compositional lines do intersect at the heart of painting so as to create an invisible version of the Santiago Cross. The cross is positoned on the right shoulder of the Infanta, almost at the center of the painting. One arm of the cross stretches towards the King, whose reflection can be seen in the mirror; the other arm stretches towards Nieto Velazquez, brother of Diego, who stands at the stairway.

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IV

To add more to this, let us extend the lines of this compositional grid to their natural limits.

Uzatılan kompozisyon çizgileri

Once expanded to the point where they meet outside of the boundaries of the painting, and then multiplied in symmetrical fashion, one may find it to look similar to a church plan.

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But not only a church plan, also a façade.

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A closer inspection reveals that this plan is present in some  of the most significant churches in Christian history, especially those related to the infamous pilgrim route knows as Santiago’s Way.

One of these churches is the Santiago Cathedral in Compostela. Another one is the Saint Sernin Church in Toulouse. Finally, and most surprisingly, the plan also applies to the Armenian Apostelic Chapel of Saint James in Jerusalem, where Saint James died by the sword.

V

When the extended compositional lines of the painting are applied to the church plans in Jerusalem and in Compostela, one makes a stunning discovery: The Santiago Cross hidden within the compositional lines fits in both churches exactly on the chambers that hold St. James relics: In Compostela, the relics of his body; in Jerusalem, the relics of his head.

It can be said that by referring to both church plans via the use of their architectural signatures as the compositional lines in Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez manages to bring together and unite St. James relics, and makes him whole again.

VI

Someone who looks for more evidence will recognize in the extented compositional lines the eastern façades of both buildings, especially when one looks at the apex.

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One of the greater surprises here is that the angle of the apex is an exact match of the apex-like head of the Santiago cross. They are identical, and apply to both churches.

VII

A third important connection is a shift of approximately 2.5 degrees on the main axes of both churches. This is reflected in the painting through the canvas with its back turned towards us. The depicted canvas meets the lower edge of the painting with the same angle, like if the painting imitates the common signatures of both buildings.

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In total, it can be said that the painting has the same structural rhythm with the carrier structures of both churches: a rhythm of 6/7. The painting itself, as well as the extented version therefore fits both churches from all angles.

VIII

A final reference to St. James can be found in the depicted content of the painting: Both the mirror, and the man standing at the door are references to St. James speech in the New Testament:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1, Listening and Doing)

The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5, Patience in Suffering)

IX

Velazquez was finally honored with the Santiago Cross. Thinking about how he skillfully mastered to unite St. James, it looks like he fully deserved it.

Great job, Senor!

My Game (In One Long Sentence)

Do you find it difficult to summarize your game proposal? Well, here is a, uhm, thing that may help you. It’s some sort of an elevator pitch, or how I prefer to call it, My Game (In One Long Sentence).

Hope it helps you to get your idea on its feet, and to express your proposal in a quick and accurate way!

Elevator Pitch

 

And this is how you fill in the details:

 

Elevator Pitch Details

 

Good luck!

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

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Are you a fan of Italo Calvino, in particular his novel Invisible Cities?

Then I have something  here for you – a blog devoted to this fine piece of literature: Third Manifestation.

Third Manifestation muses about the literary and philosophical roots of this novel, addressing prominent writers and thinkers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Walter Benjamin and Jacques Lacan. You will find discussions on the book’s chapters, all supported with “city maps”, keywords and references.

Enjoy!

New Job

Today I completed a shift from my former employer, the İzmir University, to my new employer, the İzmir University of Economics.

I will teach simultaneously at two departments/faculties: The Art and Design faculty enrolled me to teach introductory art and design lessons, whereas the Software Engineering department invited me to teach game design lessons.

I’m very excited and I am looking forward to meet my new colleagues and students!

Paper Presentation at the ICIDS 2013

I’m back from Istanbul where I gave a talk in this year’s ICIDS. It was a great organization with very interesting keynote speakers such as Ernest Adams, Adam Russell and Toni Dove.

I presented a paper on the visual construction of narrative spaces in video games, which you can find here!

Next year’s ICIDS will take place in Singapore, and I’m looking forward to it!

Null!

The underground literature movement Kült Neşriyat published a special issue on the Gezi Protests in Turkey. I contributed to this special issue with a short article on the relation between play and freedom, and gambling and oppression. You can download the issue here! The articles are all in turkish.