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'The Daughters' And 'Las Meninas' Rendezvous In Spain

MFA Director Malcolm Rogers and Prado Director Miguel Zugaza stand in front of John Singer Sargent’s "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" and its direct source of inspiration, Diego Velázquez’s "Las Meninas." (Andres Valentin/Prado)
MFA Director Malcolm Rogers and Prado Director Miguel Zugaza stand in front of John Singer Sargent’s "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" and its direct source of inspiration, Diego Velázquez’s "Las Meninas." (Andres Valentin/Prado)

One of the Museum of Fine Arts’ most beloved Sargents has left the country for a rendezvous, of sorts. In Spain!

John Singer Sargent’s masterpiece, "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," is known to have been inspired by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez’s "Las Meninas."

Now the two works are being displayed together for the first time at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.

Both paintings are notorious head-scratchers. They feature little girls in curious situations, and have confounded art lovers and historians for decades.

Velazquez is held up as the creative force behind Spain’s Golden Age. In his paintings, he played around with unusual compositions and surreal subject matter.

The central character in his painting, "Las Meninas," is a royal child. She is surrounded by a posse that includes a maid, a body guard, a dog and two dwarfs.

Sargent’s "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" is a portrait of little girls in an ornate foyer. They’re not posing for the artist. Rather, they look like they’re just hanging out. Their placement – on the floor, in shadows – is not what you’d expect in a commissioned portrait from 1882.

Both of these paintings have been analyzed and debated over the years. Now their relationship will be explored at the Prado, side by side.

Malcolm Rogers, director of the MFA, is at the Prado as well. He’s being honored as a knight-commander in the Order of Isabella the Catholic, one of Spain's highest civil honors.

This program aired on March 15, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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