Marguerite after Diego Velázquez, 2016-2017, Murit Gur-Lavy (Karni) - Eretz Israel Museum

Marguerite after Diego Velázquez, 2016-2017, Murit Gur-Lavy (Karni)

Photo: Hadar Saifan


Black clay PRNF 0.5, pigments; hand built


Murit Gur-Lavy (Karni), b. 1952


“In 2016-2018, I created sculptures of princesses out of a black, crude, rough, sticky and expressive material, while drawing inspiration from Velázquez’s paintings of Spanish court life, and especially “Las Meninas” (1656). I repeatedly attempted to enter the painting’s monumental gateway. Throughout the work process, I held onto a reproduction from an old booklet found on a library shelf, rather than relying on my imagination or on an existing model. Each sculpture was an attempt to translate the details of the painting into matter, while providing my own interpretation.
Velázquez, who lived in 17th-century Spain, was the court painter, whose compositions were instantly considered masterpieces. “Las Meninas” has acquired a mythological status. Much has been written about this monumental painting, which in addition to being a remarkable work of art also touches upon life in the palace, where beauty, egotism, ugliness and intrigue all existed together. The painter presents an outstanding representation of the discourse, tension and drama, without removing himself from the scene. The play of reflections endows the composition with an infinite dimension, casting it as a symbol and model of genius and complexity concerned with a play of appearances, and greatly influencing other artists.
My personal encounter with this painting began when I was a little girl, looking at a book that my parents received in 1945 as a wedding gift. It was a book bound in gray cloth with a copper plaque bearing a dedication. The black-and-white reproduction of the Infanta mesmerized me at the time – awakening both curiosity and fear.
My acquaintance with the Japanese artist Takamori opened a gate that was perhaps already open. This Japanese-American artist spoke of the process leading him to sculpt figures that had been part of his childhood in Japan, based on reproductions of Western art. He gave me the courage, despite the fact that I am a painter, to experiment and attempt to recreate the painted princesses out of matter. I began with the Infanta herself and her servants, and moved on to Queen Marina of Austria, whom I continued to call Marguerita.
The material I chose was PRNF 0.5, which is black, crude, rough, sticky and expressive – in absolute contrast to the large-scale oil painting and the formal, regal perfection of the princess clad in lace. I worked with a sense of absolute freedom, while remaining faithful to the painted figure, which constantly gazed out at me out of a faded reproduction.”


On display at the Rothschild Gallery, Tel Aviv Biennale of Crafts & Design, MUZA – Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.