Las Hilanderas by Diego Velazquez is a complex painting that depicts women working at the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Isabel in Madrid. The iconography of the painting suggests the Fable of Arachne, where Athena challenged Arachne to weave better than her, and being offended by her hubris, transformed her into a spider. Velazquez used chiaroscuro to create high contrast and an overall atmospheric perspective which adds depth to the painting.
The work was created for King Philip IV’s huntsman, Don Pedro de Arce as either an allegory against pride or simply a representation of everyday life. Despite this uncertainty surrounding the motivation behind the painting, it remains a topic of discussion and interpretation amongst art enthusiasts.
It is also speculated that Velazquez created Las Hilanderas to showcase ordinary workers as main subjects in order to warn nobility against arrogance. Although this cannot be confirmed, it is clear that Velazquez’s late work continues to captivate viewers with its intricate details and unique style.