Giuseppe Bonito (1707-1789)
Portrait of Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marqués de Esquilache
Oil on canvas - 128 × 102.5 cm
Madrid, Museo del Prado
Photo : Museo del Prado
19/5/14 - Acquisition - Madrid, Museo del Prado - Sold for 37,500€ at an auction at Goya Subastas on 28 January 2014, the Portrait of Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marqués de Esquilache by Giuseppe Bonito was acquired by the Spanish government and is joining the collections at the Prado Museum.
The Marquis de Esquilache was closely tied to Charles VII of Naples (who reigned from 1734 to 1759), also King of Sicily (from 1735 to 1759) and future Charles III of Spain who appointed him as head of Customs in 1748 then Financial Secretary for the kingdom of Naples in 1753 before naming him Marquis de Esquilache in 1755. When Charles of Bourbon ascended the throne in Spain in 1759, Esquilache followed him to Madrid and became General Superintendent for Finances in 1759, then Secretary of War in 1763 and State Counselor in 1764. He attempted to reform the country but faced the hostility of the court, the church and the Spanish people who suspiciously resisted the changes proposed by a foreigner, to the point of being forced to leave the country and finish his career as Spanish ambassador to Venice.
He is shown here seated next to a table, in a three-quarter view, his legs crossed, wearing a gold embroidered coat, his left fist on his hip, a cane in his right hand. The pose appears both natural, though in a certain affected way, and imposing, the latter underscored by the velvet drapery in the background. His likeness is not overly idealized, showing a pronounced nose and weary eyes.
A disciple of Francesco Solimena, Giuseppe Bonito was introduced into the Bourbon court by the Secretary of State in Naples, the Marquis José Joaquín de Montealegre, Duke of Salas. He was court portraitist during the reign of Charles VII in Naples, then for his son Ferdinand IV when Charles turned over the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily in 1759 to his third son after taking over the Spanish throne. The artist painted the portrait of Charles and Maria Amalia in 1744, both works now reside at the Prado, then the portraits of the nine princes. Bonino’s skills as a portraitist - but also as a painter of history and genre scenes - were acknowledged by the king in 1751 when he named him "pintor de Cámara", painter to the royal Chambers.