In 1957, Picasso started an extended series of variations on Las Meninas 1656 of Diego Velazquez. The series is both a confrontation with one of the most important works in the history of Spanish painting as well as a commentary on contemporary events in Spain, observed by Picasso from his exile in France. It was painted twenty years after Guernica and continues the political protest of this earlier painting against the treatment of Spanish Republicans in Spain. At the time he began the series, Picasso was involved in the Amnesty for Spain campaign to free Spanish Republicans still imprisoned eighteen years after the end of the Spanish Civil War.
Picasso himself understood this series as a whole and as such donated it to the museum in Barcelona in May 1968 in memory of Jaime Sabartés who died the same year. Picasso said to Sabartés in 1950:
If someone want to copy Las Meninas, entirely in good faith, for example, upon reaching a certain point and if that one was me, I would say..what if you put them a little more to the right or left? I'll try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez. The test would surely bring me to modify or change the light because of having changed the position of a character. So, little by little, that would be a detestable Meninas for a traditional painter, but would be my Meninas. ”