I chose to look at Las Meninas for this second post on compositions – again, I’ve analyzed the work with equally-proportioned shapes and have sought some kind of overall guide to the composition without assuming that the artist ever even intended to do so. I haven’t read the background of this work in detail so I’m unaware of how much time Velazquez spent considering the composition. If this was a sitting involving children (who are often restless and playful) I doubt the composition could be overly considered. Nonetheless, the point of this is merely to speculate on the layout of his work.
The first image is my first simple division of the frame (which is almost but not quite a square). Already, the diagonals in the bottom half seem to inform the angle in which the two girls are leaning. The dog is well framed by a triangle, and the half-way vertical and horizontal lines are undoubtedly used as a main guide; the horizontal cuts just above the tallest figure and the vertical, along the edge of the door in the background.
The second features a succession of proportionally-equal circles receding to the centre of the frame: that is, they are all reduced by the ratio of the frame length by frame width. It’s interesting that the skirt of the girl in the centre closely follows the edge of the first circle but apart from that nothing much is obvious.
The fourth image is basically the third with most of the edges of the shapes extended to the edge of the entire frame. These shapes are drawn in the ratio of the full frame and are reduced to their smaller size by the same ratio. Now we find lines marking the average height of the little girls, the start of the ceiling behind them, and the dog even looks disgruntled by the first guide in from the right.
The sixth image comes from the fifth – an extension of the grid lines to the corners of dupicates of the original frame sitting to each of the four sides. Here we find a line clearly resting on the heads of the three girls to the right – whose heights gradually lessen. The other lines, however, give away very little.
The final image is a collection of those marks which do inform the position of various points in the composition. It is most heavily based, therefore, on a grid that recedes to the centre. The upper corner of the room, interestingly, is hit by two diagonals and the dog sits nicely from the right edge of the frame. Closer to the centre, the panels of the picture frame and door frames can be likened to the difference between the two shapes over each of them (which are proportionally equal to the full frame).
Overall, in contrast to my hectic last image, the composition is actually rather straightforward. The frame is split into four by its mid-points. The four background figures are composed with the mid horizontal line and the five kids, with one clever diagonal and a couple of smaller rectangles receding to the centre. After all, as long as the main components are pleasingly positioned for the eye, other areas can go without the same treatment.