Valdes’ statuesque Reina Mariana is a masterful appropriation of Diego Velázquez’s famous portrait of Mariana of Austria, queen of Spain and the second wife of Felipe IV. Velázquez portrayed a stoic queen who lived a notoriously unhappy life while in the Spanish court. Valdes has taken Velázquez’s interpretation of this figure in Spanish history and art history and has left us only with a silhouette. The joints of the wood double as seams for her elegant attire and the stoic stare is replace by a faceless suggestion of a head and coif. However, Velázquez’s portrait of Mariana is merely a pretext to create something entirely new by appropriating and recreating iconic subjects in the history of art. Like his paintings, composed of layers of painted canvases or pieces of burlap, Valdes’ Reina Mariana is assembled by accumulating layers of boards of wood. Reina Mariana is one of Valdes’ favored subjects—having reworked this image into many sculptures and paintings alike. The present work is undoubtedly one of the most impressive renditions of this favored subject of the artist. Standing at almost 6 feet tall and placed directly onto the floor, the sculpture confronts the viewer while reclaiming its layers of art historical allusions but with a life of its own.
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