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The Fable of Arachne, c.1657-58

In 2019, I visited the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, and had the opportunity to view the works of Diego Velázquez. Though I was not previously familiar with the artist, I was immediately struck by his exceptional talent.


Diego Velázquez

Las Meninas

One of Velázquez's most well-known paintings, "Las Meninas," was also on display at the museum and left an impression on me. However, it was another painting that caught my attention.


The Fable of Arachne

The Fable of Arachne, also known as "The Spinners," depicts women working in a tapestry factory at the court of King Philip IV of Spain and Portugal. The painting was created for Don Pedro de Arce, huntsman to King Philip IV.


According to the art curator from the museum, this is a summary of the painting:


“The work corresponds to his late style: the technique of smudges of paint, as we see on the spinning wheel, the old woman, the idea of movement that the painting has, the use of light makes the work almost like a snapshot. This is what we would say today: a slice of life.”


Despite being less refined in its brushstrokes, I found The Fable of Arachne to be more alive and cinematic than his more famous work, Las Meninas. The spinning wheel, in particular, is incredibly realistic and appears to be in motion.


As an artist, Velázquez was able to effectively combine classical and Renaissance artistic traditions with a direct confrontation with reality, resulting in a highly original and unique style. This blending of the otherworldly with the mundane is a hallmark of Velázquez's brand of realism.

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