Las Meninas is an art historian's dream come true. There's very little documentation about it so they can speculate and project their own ideas as much as they want. If you can't tell by now I'm not a huge fan of the BS art historians and docents throw out there about paintings. They say crap that only makes sense to someone who's never painted anything before. Stuff that even a non-judgmental eye can tell is nonsense. All of the hidden symbolism that they find in paintings, they should be psychoanalysts not art historians. I used to be a volunteer for an art program called Meet the Masters and it was painful to go by the script. Kids know when you're reading them a line of crap but thankfully their parents teach them to be polite enough not to call you out on it.
Anywho, the history, the actual history, surrounding this painting is very interesting. In 17th century Spain paintings were merely regarded as a craft. Considering what we now classify as a craft and what is a painting it's kind of sad. Yes, a shoe maker has to be very skilled at what they do but can it compare? It shouldn't really be a surprise, after all barber surgeons were still practicing at this time.
One thing I find most intriguing about this painting is it's much like the John Singer Sargent's painting The Fountain, where he is painting Jane Emmet de Glehn as she paints something else. What was she painting while being painted? Velazquez has a canvas in this painting, what was he painting on that canvas? There are so many possibilities. I have an initial reaction to this painting then it usually says to me, it's just like the annoying neighbour kid when I'm out working in the garden. I'm working and they just pop up and start asking questions. After they can't take a hint to go play in the street I put them to work. Velazquez could have very well been working on another painting and the royal brat wouldn't leave him alone so fine, sit there and be painted. Hmm...maybe being an art historian isn't so bad, making up stuff about paintings is kinda fun.