easel - A tool allowing the stable support and display of a painter's canvas or panel.
Sturdier easels typically involve a blocky and heavy structure, while portable easels are light-weight and three-legged. Most contemporary easels can be folded for storage.
An easel painting is one that is small enough to fit on an easel, and one with a support that permits it to be painted on one (unlike murals for instance).
Easels depicted within paintings:
Bosporan Kingdom (on the Black Sea Coast), Portrait Artist's Workshop Painted Sarcophagus (detail), 1st century CE, limestone, entire sarcophagus 81 x 215 x l 57 cm, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See studio.
Diego Velázquez (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez) (Spanish, 1599-1660), The Family of Philip IV, or "The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas)", c. 1656, oil on canvas, (318 x 276 cm), Prado Museum, Madrid.
This is a group portrait of an exceptional sort:
In the center-foreground is the infanta (princess) attended by her meninas (maids of honor) — companions including two young ladies, a dwarf, a child, a dog, a nun, and a tutor.
This little party is visiting the studio where Velázquez stands before his canvas. We see the back of it, perched upon an easel. The painter and most of the others look toward the king and queen as they pose for the painting in progress.
The king and queen would not actually be visible in this picture if their reflected image could not be seen in a mirror placed on the opposite wall. Altogether this is a view, which could only be seen by the king and queen themselves, as they pose for their portrait. The point of view of every person who gazes upon this painting is that of the king and queen of Spain. A very privileged vantage indeed!
Further increasing the sense that we are present at a specific moment is our glimpse of a man in the distant doorway, pausing as he descends or ascends — either entering or exiting the chamber. See Baroque, genre, self-portrait, and Spanish art.
Adriaen van Ostade (Dutch, 1610-1685), detail of The Artist's Workshop, oil on canvas. See mahlstick and studio.
Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675), Allegory of Painting (The Painter in His Studio), c. 1666, oil on canvas, 130 x 110 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The model personifies Clio, Muse of History, holding the trumpet of fame in her right hand and the chronicle of world events in her left. Attributes of other muses, including a mask, lie on the table. These make the painter a narrator of stories. See paint-by-number.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919), Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, 1873, oil on canvas, 18 x 23 1/2 inches, Wadsworth Atheneum, CT. See en plein air and Impressionism.
Also see beret, brush, palette, and smock.