The Rehearsal as Metaphor for Metamorphosis: The Pictorial Dramaturgy in Velázquez’s The Spinners, or The Fable of Arachne – by Christine Lang

By thematizing rehearsal processes in performative works unfolding over time, it is possible to demonstrate and depict working on art itself and the conditions for producing it.[1] Revealing artistic processes and the work of construction is considered a means of critical aesthetics, where it is a matter of querying the criteria of the creation of an aesthetic formation. This essay will question which artistic procedures are possible, in analogy, in a static work. How can these critical ideas of rehearsal be reflected on as a topos in a painting?

In Velázquez’s (1599–1660) The Spinners, or The Fable of Arachne (1655–60),[2] labor is staged as a scenic event and represented “as a form of value creation.”[3] Beyond this explicit level of representation, Velázquez borrows from a theatrical aesthetics of effect and epically structured dramaturgy. He thus achieves a self-reflected, critical reflection on the arrangement of narration and visual representation at the dramaturgically implicit level of dramatic image plot as well.

In: Sabeth Buchmann, Ilse Lafer, Constanze Ruhm (Ed.): Putting Rehearsals to the Test, Sternberg Press, 2016 (sep)

[1] Cf. Annemarie M. Matzke, Arbeit am Theater eine Diskursgeschichte der Probe (Bielefeld: transcript, 2012), 13, 39-40.

[2] The painting in detail:

[3] Matzke, Arbeit am Theater, 36.


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