Not long ago I discovered some really interesting figurines called Meninas and as soon as I saw them I knew I couldn’t go on living another minute without one. The name itself intrigued me because the only meninas I was familiar with was the famous painting by XVII century painter Diego Velazquez called Las Meninas. Diego Velazquez has always been one of my favorite artists because his paintings almost look like photographs not to mention the fact that Velazquez himself was quite a handsome and dashing guy, in a D’Artagnan-esque sort of way. I quickly realized that these cute little dolls and figurines are actually based on that 1656 masterpiece in which he depicts the Spanish infanta, Princess Margarita Teresa at about age 5 or so surrounded by her ladies in waiting.
Infanta is the term used in Spain to refer to the daughter of the king and menina was the term used for lady in waiting or maids of honor in the Spanish Court. Princess Margarita Teresa was the daughter of Philip IV of Spain and his second wife Mariana of Austria. She was married off to her uncle Leopold I when she was 15 years old and he was 26. In spite of the age difference their marriage was a happy one particularly because they both shared many interests including music and the theater and the couple loved each other dearly. Sadly though, Margarita Teresa died at the young age of 22 when she gave birth to her fourth child. Diego Velazquez painted several portraits of the infanta at different ages as well as of the royal family, capturing every luxurious detail of their clothing and of the elaborate fashions of the day as well as their intricate hair styles and colorful accessories. It is on these portraits that the menina figurines are based. Meninas are often made of plaster or ceramic and most of them are faceless, but they are easily recognizable because of their wide skirt and round puffy hairdo. Many people collect them as home decor items and they are particularly cute used in vignettes. Meninas are also sold plain white and ready to paint and decorate as a DIY project. I fell in love with these little figurines and the first menina I purchased was a plain plaster one who’s skirt I decoupaged.
I also purchased a ceramic menina that came in a boring mustard color from head to foot. I decoupaged her skirt as well.
Then I saw some home made papier maché meninas online and I decided to try and make a couple of my own using a whiskey bottle as a mold for the wide skirt.
I covered the bottle completely in plastic wrap so that the papier maché wouldn’t stick to it and could later be easily removed.
When the skirt shape was dry I removed it from the bottle. Then I added the torso, arms and head also out of papier maché.
Next I added the puffy hair and then gave the whole thing a coating of wall filler putty to smooth it out.
After letting it dry for a couple of days, I painted and decoupaged it and lastly added a coat of transparent polyurethane varnish on top.
Here is another smaller papier maché menina that I made.
The menina in the black dress is modeled after another of Diego Velazquez’s paintings, this time of Margarita Teresa’s mother, Queen Mariana of Austria.
Here are some beautiful plaster meninas made by another blogger. I love the colors she has used. Unfortunately larger meninas of this size are difficult to come by on this side of the pond. They’re quite heavy.
These are huge meninas used as sidewalk decorations in Asturias, Spain
Even Picasso painted his own version of Las Meninas inspired by Velazquez’s painting.
And this is the handsome and debonair Velazquez himself. If you look closely at his painting of Las Meninas you can see that he has painted himself on the left hand side, standing in front of an easel with a paintbrush in his hand.
Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage
Joining Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home