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Infanta’s Portrait was one of the elements of the “Poor Room of Imagination”, arranged on the stage by Tadeusz Kantor (see The artist’s table). It was on the right side of the stage, next to the artist’s table.
The Infanta’s presence in the painting is based on rhythmic departures and returns. As Kantor wrote, “standing or sitting in the frame, she poses herself in the painting and presents/ all her charms, or moves outside of the frame for various reasons: she is thrown, falls out or leaves herself. This ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ somehow sets the rhythm of her functioning in the performance.”

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The object was created for the Dziś są moje urodziny (Today is My Birthday) play at the Cricot 2 Theatre, where the artist worked from October 1989 to the beginning of December 1990. Tadeusz Kantor died after one of the last rehearsals of the play on 8 December 1990. The premiere was held soon after, in January 1991 at the Théâtre Garonne in Toulouse, and then the play was staged in 22 cities all over the world until June 1992.
Infanta’s Portrait was one of the elements of the “Poor Room of Imagination”, arranged on the stage by Tadeusz Kantor (see: The artist’s table). It was on the right side of the stage, next to the artist’s table.
Portrayed by Teresa Wełmińska, the “INFANTA FROM VELÁZQUEZ’S PAINTING” probably appeared for the first time during the rehearsals in Toulouse in October 1990, a year after the artist started to work on the performance. Initially, she was assigned a landscape frame where she was posed in a way reminiscent of the Maya figure from Francisco Goya’s paintings (see: Goya’s paintings from the Prado Museum).
She was dressed in a simple black dress of smooth, slightly glittering fabric that was later replaced with a bodysuit and lace skirt laid on a simple cage. Her final costume was completed after the artist’s death. Several designs by Kantor have been preserved. One should note that the prototype for the Infanta figure was Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656), which was frequently paraphrased by Kantor in his painting works since the 1960s.
The Infanta’s presence in the painting is based on rhythmic departures and returns. As Kantor wrote, “standing or sitting in the frame, she poses herself in the painting and presents/ all her charms, or moves outside of the frame for various reasons: she is thrown, falls out or leaves herself. This ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ somehow sets the rhythm of her functioning in the performance.”
The Infanta’s role is practically limited to the visual influence. She moves stiffly in a forced, decorative manner making the impression that she is solemnly imprisoned in the painting. The artist characterised her as follows: her MAJESTY and BEAUTY... She seems to be a painting within a painting (if one freezes the performance in a frame). Her figure remains in the perceptible relation to the “SELF-PORTRAIT OF THE PROPRIETOR OF THE POOR ROOM OF IMAGINATION” that was identified in the performance with the figure of Tadeusz Kantor. The “SELF-PORTRAIT” brightens up when she enters, leads her to the frame when she is thrown out, and finally the Infanta sits at the artist’s table. The existence of an emotional bond between them is illustrated by one of Kantor’s paintings, which was created around the same time as the rehearsals in April 1990. It is the artist’s self-portrait entitled Po raz drugi weszła do mego pokoju Infantka Velasqueza, tym razem wyraźnie zniecierpliwiona (Velasquez’s Infanta entered my room for the second time, this time clearly impatient).
The form of the object draws upon the easel on which the painting in thick frames of aged wood was placed. The depth of the painting is achieved with the black cloth on a metal structure that is, at the same time, the background for the “live painting” taking place on the wooden platform. In the middle of the cloth there are doors through which the figure could back out of the painting. Look at the costume: the dress and the headgear were made of black lace associated with a funeral ceremony. 

Elaborated by Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska (The Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor), © all rights reserved

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Recording, documentation

The reconstruction of Kantor’s work on his performances is possible thanks to, among others, the video recordings of rehearsals which were made on the artist’s request, starting with the play Niech sczezną artyści [Let the Artists Die] from 1985. Forty eight hours of rehearsals were recorded during the preparation for the play Dziś są moje urodziny [Today Is My Birthday].

 

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The reconstruction of Kantor’s work on his performances is possible thanks to, among others, the video recordings of rehearsals which were made on the artist’s request, starting with the play Niech sczezną artyści [Let the Artists Die] from 1985. Forty eight hours of rehearsals were recorded during the preparation for the play Dziś są moje urodziny [Today Is My Birthday].
At a certain stage of his work, Kantor began to attach great weight to the documentation and arrangement of his realisations and collections.
All recorded rehearsals from Cricot 2 Theatre can be watched in Cricoteka Archives in Kraków at 2-4 Nadwiślańska Street.

Elaborated by Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska (Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor) and the Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museum, © all rights reserved

See the exhibits created for play Dziś są moje urodziny [Today is My Birthday] at our collection:
Infanta’s Portrait
Painting of Self-portrait
Tank
The artist’s table

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Infanta by Kantor/Velázquez

Kantor perceived Velazquez’s Infantas as Madonnas and relics. Dressed in a kind of costume, they hide their rickety bodies underneath...

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Diego Velázquez, Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress, 1659, source: www.wikipedia.orgCC-BY 3.0 PL

 Kantor perceived Velazquez’s Infantas as Madonnas and relics. Dressed in a kind of costume, they hide their rickety bodies underneath. Kantor wrote about them:

“they persist vulnerable,

Humiliated,

Shamelessly demonstrating to the public

their complete indifference.

Dummies of death

enclosed in cardboard boxes ...”[1]

From the mid-1960s to 1990, Kantor created approx. 20 paintings and drawings with the Infanta motif.

 

Elaborated by: Anna Berestecka (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.


[1] T. Kantor, Pisma, vol. I: Metamorfozy. Teksty o latach 1934−1974, Wrocław 2005, p. 320.

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“Infanta’s Portrait” (“Today is My Birthday”, 1990)

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