Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things in A&S, pp. 439-454. The Analysis of Pure Experience of Order:
Codes of Culture Between these … there is an intermediary, fundamental domain that is ‘encoded eye’ the ‘Pure Experience of Order and its Modes of Being’
Origin of this domain?: culture deviates from the codes so that the relation of culture to codes becomes less clear … this opens up a space: this region Sci. & Philos. Theories ‘reflexive knowledge’ What happens herein?: * the ‘space’ opened up allows culture (us) to see how the codes could be otherwise … * allows us to realize that order exists … we are capable of being ordered without the codes … * we realize that the codes (the ‘grid’) imposed upon us … neutralized us … that they revealed us and excluded us … * and this process of revealing/excluding allowed culture (us) to come face to face with order in its primary stage (the underlying pure order) … * so, in this ‘between,’ what can/will happen is that critique can take place, such will render the old codes partially invalid, and the construction of new orders will take place … So … Foucault’s present study, “Las Meninas,” is an attempt to analyze that experience (the ‘in between’ described above).
This attempt will seek to show: * what way of language, categories, and exchange are formed * what way of culture manifests order and bears out modalities of valuing * what modes of order given posit the base of knowledge
What he is seeking throughout are the conditions of possibility i.e., not what is, but what is it that permits the possibility of what is to be what it is …
What he is doing, then, is an archeology i.e., a theoretical work that parallels the work of archelogy (e.g., a study of human history & prehistory via excavation of sites, analyses of artifacts, examinations of diverse physical remains), and:
i.e., a theoretical work that shares its essence with that of archelogy if we consider the etymology: Archelogy ß archéologie (French, 16th c.: ‘ancient history’) ß arkhaiologia (Greek, ‘study of ancient things) ß arkhaios- [(‘ancient, primeval’) ß arkhe (‘beginning’)] + -ology [(‘study of’) ß logos (‘reason, word’)] So … archelogy’s etymological roots show that it is the causal reasoning/saying of arkhe (arché), whose ‘beginning’ is better understood as the principle, cause, origin, reason, source, sum, and whole … it is that from which things come to be and that which is in its dynamism and that to which all is … so, the beginning, being, and end of all that is! This helps us understand Foucault because he is seeking the “conditions of possibility,” so he is working like an archeologist on site to trace back the what is given so as to come to know the most primordial thought, what is itself before all else (hence free of encodings of culture and reflexive theories), causes all else (is creative, gives rise to all that is and can give rise to what isn’t but could be), and still, by these traces we study, is what is (hence, not ‘orders’ that are fiction, but realities that are simply potential or repressed or unexplored or veiled over).
 Carefully note this “attempt to analyze” … quite literally, the rest of the reading is his archeological work getting into the ‘site’ of Diego Veláquez’s 1656 painting Las Meninas (‘the ladies in waiting’)—read this ‘getting into’ the painting as a demonstration of what all the above means; pay close attention to the how throughout.
Diego Velaquez, Las Meninas
[‘the ladies in waiting’] (1656, oil on canvas, 10.4’ x 9.1’, Prado
Background on the painter and about the painting … note how all of this speaks to the ‘codes of culture’ and the ‘sci/phi theories’ … think about how these/this information gives an order, and how the ‘pure’ order we are seeking is between these, hence, something other than the following …
On Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Veláquez (b.1599 in Seville, d.1660 in Madrid): Spanish painter—almost always gifted with qualifications of ‘most admired,’ ‘most successful,’ ‘greatest,’ etc.—employed by the court of King Philip IV in Spain’s ‘golden age,’ Veláquez heavily engaged Baroque style, painted historical and cultural scenes as well as portraits, almost always noted as ‘miraculous,’ ‘conveying pure truth,’ ‘capturing reality,’ ‘indistinguishably life-life,’ etc.. He was influenced by Caravaggio (notably adopting his naturalism), Venetian paintings and Peter Paul Rubens (notably honing their use of perspective and mastering the rendering of nudes—the realism herein led to his notable works of court life, including dwarfs and jesters painted with such clarity they record their suffering amidst their ensuing hilarity that can continue to shock). Around 1650, his sensational showing of a portrait of his assistant (so lifelike) led to his being granted sole permission to paint Pope Innocent X (which was then “looked upon as a miracle” and copied by all the artists of the day). His work Las Meninas is one of his latest paintings and is considered by an overwhelming many to be his freest and most spectacular work. After his death, since most of his works were for kings and the pope, they were not seen by many. However, Antonio Palomino’s notable history of Spanish painters (1724) devoted a whole section to Veláquez, which established him as an unquestionable master (and his work Las Meninas as his masterpiece). Then, when Napoleon went about his warring in the 1800’s, the work was freed and spread through Northern Europe, allowing many far and wide to see it, hence his impact has been strongest on artists stating in the 19th c.
On Las Meninas [‘the ladies in waiting’] (1656, oil on canvas, 10.4’ x 9.1’, Prado):
“[Las Meninas] suggests that art, and life, are an illusion” (Dawson Carr, Painting & Reality, 50).
“[Las Meninas represents] the theology of painting” (Luca Giordano, a peer Baroque painter).
“[Las Meninas is] the true philosophy of the art” (Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1827).
“[Las Meninas is] perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting” (Honour & Flemming, A World History of Art, 447).
“Las Meninas has one meaning that is immediately obvious to any viewer: it is a group portrait set in a specific location and peopled with identifiable figures undertaking comprehensible actions. The painting’s aesthetic values are also evident: the setting is one of the most credible spaces depicted in western art; the composition combines unity and variety; the remarkably beautiful details are divided across the entire pictorial surface; and finally, the painter has taken a decisive step forward on the path to illusionism, which was one of the goals of European painting in the early modern age, given that he has gone beyond transmitting resemblance in order to successfully achieve the representation of life or animation. However, as is habitual with Velázquez, in this scene in which the Infanta and the court servants pause in their actions on the arrival of the King and Queen, there are numerous underlying meanings that pertain to different fields of experience and which co-exist in one of the masterpieces of western art that has been the subject of the most numerous and most varied interpretations” (from Prado’s official description: www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/las-meninas/9fdc7800-9ade-48b0-ab8b-edee94ea877f).
 In relation to Foucault, note: here is an account of meaning that can open up ‘cultural codes’ … it is objective, factual, yet however we fill this out, it will be in accord with our cultural conventions, e.g., it is right and common for important people to have portraits made; they are figures of royalty; etc.
 In relation to Foucault, note: here is an account that gets closer to a scientific/philosophical theory … close because it opens up the theoretically common features aesthetics delineates as the content for aesthetic judgment (that it is art and its value as art).
 In relation to Foucault, note: here is an idea hinting at why he may have chosen this piece (beyond the excessive cultural codes and philosophic theories about it!): that Velázquez himself operated within the intent to and created an object that carries underlying multiplicity of meanings from and about different fields in simultaneity.