Diego Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain in 1599. His early training as a painter came from Francisco Pacheco who was a painter, poet, scholar and writer on art. Though Pacheco was a mediocre painter, he was a capable teacher, sympathetic to the new interest in naturalism. Velázquez, who later became his son-in-law, was one of his most important pupils.
In 1656, Velázquez painted an emormous canvas (over 3 metres tall), Las Meninas (maids of honour), that has become his best known work and is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of art. This painting has tantilized art historians and students of art by its complexity and by the artist's ability to create a visual world which seems almost palpable. At first glance one is captivated by the figure of a girl who is, in fact, the king's daughter the Infanta Margarita, and would have been about five years old at the time. She is attended by her two maids of honour and occupies the central position in the picture plain. One might assume that she is the subject of this grand piece, however, it is far from a portrait of the infanta or the group in which she stands.