A Painting by Juan Comba Pre-Empted by the Spanish Government for the Patrimonio Nacional

1. Juan Comba y García (1852-1924)
Reception in Honor of the Wedding of Alfonso XIII, 1906-1923
Oil on Canvas - 72 x 104.5 cm
Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional

17/8/12 - Acquisition - Madrid, National heritage - The Spanish government pre-empted a painting by Juan Comba for the Patrimonio Nacional [1], illustrating a reception organized on 2 June 1906 at the Palacio Real to mark the wedding of Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg (ill. 1). Celebrated two days earlier, an assassination attempt on the king’s life had disrupted the festivities.
The work, long held in the king’s private apartments, had become the property of a cousin of the current king, Juan Carlos, who put it up for sale on 6 March 2012. The government bought it for 15,000€, exercizing its "derecho de tanteo", or pre-emption, as opposed to "derecho de retracto" or right to withdrawal ; the first grants the state priority status in acquiring an asset, the second applies after an auction and allows the state to step in for the buyer. The law of 25 June 1985 for Spanish historical heritage in fact established a preferential right of acquisition, by either public municipalities or the government, of assets presenting historical or cultural interest [2].

2. Juan Comba y García (1852-1924)
Wedding of Alfonso XIII and Victoria
Madrid, Palacio Real
Photo : D.R

The year 1906 was an important date for the Spanish royal family. The Infanta Maria Teresa de Borbón and Ferdinand of Bavaria were married on 12 January, then on 31st May King Alphonse XIII (1886-1941) wed Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg (1887-1969), a niece of Edward VII and grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of England. Juan Cambo produced several small paintings illustrating the event : besides the reception held at the Palacio Real which the artist painted a few years later, in 1923, there are also two known paintings representing the religious ceremony at San Jerónimo, one held at the Palacio Real (ill. 2), the other in the form of a triptyque offered at auction at Bonhams on 29 October 2008 in London and sold for £18,000.
Comba, who collaborated in journals such as Ilustración Española y Americana between 1872 and 1907, as well as Blanco y Negro, also designed various illustrations, one of the reception [3], which he would repeat almost identically for his painting, and the other of the Ball at the Palace of the Duchess de Fernán Núñez [4] in which we also find part of the same composition seen in the canvas (ill. 3 and 4).

3. Juan Comba y García (1852-1924)
Madrid - Royal wedding. Reception at the royal Alcázar
to solemnly mark the wedding
of King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria

Ilustración Española y Americana, 15 june 1906.
Photo : Ilustración Española y Americana

4. Juan Comba y García (1852-1924)
Madrid - Ball at the palace of the Duchess of Fernán Núñez
to celebrate the wedding of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria.
The Grand Salon after the end of the honors quadrille.

Ilustración Española y Americana, 15 june 1906.
Photo : Ilustración Española y Americana

A painter, decorator, illustrator, Juan Comba was a student of Eduardo Rosales and the son-in-law of Joaquín Sigüenza who was a painter at the royal court and curator of the royal monastery of El Escorial. He traveled all over Europe and became known in 1895 and 1899 for two paintings : The Royal Escort and Rosales’ Studio. However, he was celebrated mainly for his drawings and illustrations, making him a valuable chronicler of late 19th century Spain and, more particularly, the royal family.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, vendredi 17 août 2012


[1] The Patrimonio Nacional is the public institution which manages the works assigned to the king or the royal family.

[2] See Les droits de préemption lors de la mutation de l’immeuble dans l’Union Européenne. Colloquium ARNU-laboratory of private law, 24 March 2011.

[3] Spanish legend : Madrid. - Bodas reales. Recepción verificada en la noche del 2 del corriente en el regio Alcázar para solemnizar la boda de D. Alfonso XIII con la princesa Victoria.

[4] Spanish legend : Madrid. - Baile celebrado en el palacio de la duquesa de Fernán Núñez, el 4 del corriente, para solemnizar las bodas del Rey D. Alfonso XIII y la Reina Victoria. - Aspecto del Gran Salón una vez terminado el rigodón de honor. Dibujo de Comba.

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