A Goya Portrait Acquired by the Meadows Museum

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)
Portrait of Mariano Goya, 1827
Oil on canvas - 52 x 41.2 cm
Dallas, Meadows Museum
Photo : Meadows Museum

14/10/13 - Acquisition - Dallas, Meadows Museum - After remaining unsold at a Sotheby’s auction last 31st January 2013 in New York where it was estimated at between $6 and 8 millon, the portrait of Mariano by Goya was finally acquired by the Meadows Museum which already owns five works by the Spanish master ; in a way, a celebration of the museum’s fiftieth anniversary.
The work had remained for quite some time in a private collection and had not been displayed in public for about forty years [1]. This is a portrait of the artist’s grandson, born in 1806 and represented at the age of 21 when Goya, exiled in Bordeaux since 1824, traveled to Madrid in 1827 for a short stay to see his son who had remained there with his family. An inscription was discovered on the back of the canvas : "Goya a su nieto en 1827, a los 81 de su edad" ["Goya to his grandson in 1827, at 81 years old."]. He had already represented the young Mariano, notably between 1812 and 1814, in front of a musical score (Collection Duque de Albuquerque, Madrid).

The likeness acquired by the Meadows Museum is a far cry from the official court portraits and other commissions of the Spanish elite painted by Goya when he lived in Spain, at the height of his career. During the last years of his life, he depicted close friends and family members in a less formal manner, emphasizing the expression and personality of the model. The hasty, at times impulsive, touch, the reduced palette, the simplified composition all serve to enhance the face, which is treated more carefully than the clothing ; the youth and freshness of the young man stand out against the dark and neutral background, illuminated by the sole white spot of the shirt. The artist’s skill appears in the areas where the diluted paint reveals the layer underneath while the contours are sometimes well marked - for example the line tracing the hair on his forehead -, at others depicted by a simple brush stroke as in the case of the left ear. Elsewhere, outlines are blurred, as if the figure were emerging progressively. The hair forms a halo around the candid face where a small scar serves to personalize it a bit more.
We find a similar approach in the Portrait of Jacques Galos painted in 1826 (Barnes Foundation) as well as in the Portrait of Muguiro who accompanied him when he went to Madrid ; the focus is not as closely centered but the style is just as impulsive.
Goya left his residence at the Quinta del Sordo to Mariano and died before knowing that his grandson, contrary to the image of a sensible young man with which he portrayed him, dilapidated his estate and sold his home.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, lundi 14 octobre 2013


[1] It was on view in The Hague at The Mauritshuis and at the Orangerie in Paris for the "Goya" exhibition in 1970.

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