In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

LAS HILANDERAS, THE THEATER, AND A COMEDIA BY CALDERÓN ANA M. BEAMUD Duke University . . . every great work of art is renewed, not depleted, by time and thus remains forever alive. By the same token, every generation has an obligation to accept the challenge of interpretation as part of the process of revitalization. Jonathan Brown' Ernst Robert Curtius has observed that «only the Spanish theater has a vitalrelafiohship to the great painting of the nation.»' This relationship may perhaps be perceived most clearly in the Spanish Golden Age. Certainly this century presents one of the most famous examples of the interrelationship of these sister arts: Velazquez's La rendición de Breda, a depiction of the final scene of Calderón's El sitio de Breda. Not surprisingly, other paintings by Velazquez seem to have been inspired by the theater as well. For example, comparisons have been made between the lay-out of his masterpiece Las hilanderas and characteristics of the Spanish stage of the time. Indeed, it can be argued that Las hilanderas, beyond merely resembling a stage presentation , actually depicts an arrested dramatization. Moreover, this dramatization may well have been inspired by a specific play. Pedro Calderón de la Barca's Darlo todo y no dar nada. ' Spatial analogies between the stage and Velazquez's work have long been acknowledged. In describing Velazquez's use of space, Ortega y Gasset compared the painter's technique to that of the theater: «Está, pues, obtenido el espacio en profundidad mediante una serie de bastidores como en el escenario de un teatro.»' Velázquez undoubtedly employed this technique, which gives greater perspective 37 38Bulletin of the Comediantes on stage, in Las meninas. In Las hilanderas, the parallel between stage and Velazquez's setting is even more noticeable. The lay-out of the seventeenth-century court stage as shown in a 1713 ground plan of the Buen Retiro palace is identical to that of Las hilanderas in that it consists of a larger rectangular stage with a smaller recessed area in the rear (fig. 1). The effect of the recessed stage in the theater is, as N.D. Shergold points out, to give «greater depth in perspective scenes.»5 It serves the same function in Velazquez's work. In addition, the oculus in the recessed area is similar to the backdrop used in another Calderón play and may have been incorporated by Velazquez in his efforts to reproduce the stage scenery." Critics have pointed out other parallels between Las hilanderas and the stage. Carl Justi, one of the earliest art critics of Velazquez, suggests that the two scenes are «like pit and stage,» and, he adds, «at first glance the picture in the background might be taken for some theatrical performance.»7 Everett W. Hesse comments on the theatrical dress of the figures in the back scene and suggests that the painting depicts a dramatic presentation with the first plane as Act I, and the second plane as Act II. He notes that the viola de gamba in the background was an instrument commonly used in the seventeenthcentury Spanish theater, especially by Calderón/ Gustaf Cavallius proposes that the curtain and the ladder in the foreground may be theater props. 'Indeed, this type of curtain, which can be opened and closed at the beginning and the end of acts, was known in Spain as telón de boca and was introduced to the Spanish stage by the Italian scene designer and engineer Cosme Lotti. In his remarks about the theater of the Buen Retiro, the Coliseo, Calderón himself describes just such a curtain: «'la cortina que cubría el teatro' (o sea el telón de boca), bordada con hilos de colores imitando guirnaldas de rosas'... tan al vivo. . . que casi se percibió su fragancia.»'0 It is tempting to suggest, then, that Velazquez's red curtain, held open by the young girl, was inspired by this innovation in the Spanish theater. Beyond these general similarities between Las hilanderas and the seventeenth-century Spanish stage, several features of the painting suggest that it was specifically inspired by Darlo todo y no dar nada. " Calderón's play treats the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 37-44
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.