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Portrait of Duchess Alba

Painting, 1797, 210.1×149.2 cm

Description of the artwork «Portrait of Duchess Alba»

This is one of the most mysterious portraits of Alba Maria del Pilar Teresa Caetana de Silva and Alvarez de Toledo, better known as the Duchess of Caetana Alba. The great Francisco Goya wrote his Muse in the form of a mahi - this is how Spanish beauties from the common people were called in the 18th-19th centuries.

Riddle number 1. Why exactly mach?

Duchess Alba met Goyawhen he was already a court painter, famous for portraits of nobles. The master was under fifty, a little aristocratic over thirty. She even surpassed the then Queen of Spain by her nobility. Goya in the family also had hidalgo, but they did not constitute the basis of the artist's family tree. Allegedly, the first words of the Duchess at the sight of Francisco were the following: “Listen, my dear, you would have gone wider pants and a green vest of a street artist much more than this gilded coat. It's like putting my dog in a queen's ball gown! ” We do not vouch that we brought them literally, but the meaning was conveyed correctly - the aristocrat understood at first glance who she was dealing with to her finger tips. Of course, this attitude at first stung Goya. He did not immediately realize that the duchess was more likely to flatter him. Firstly, at that time she was pretty tired of the aristocrats. And secondly, she herself loved to dress up with a swing.

Later, when the relationship between the artist and his Muse goes beyond the “aristocrat and her familiar painter,” the Duchess will ask Goya to write her in the form of a swing. To which he will invariably reply: “You are no mach. And you will never become it, no matter how much you dress up! ”

And it was not a compliment. By that time, Goya had already thoroughly studied the Duchess’s temper, her flimsy and love for everything that was sharper and hotter. He knew that she would like to become a flutter for a while. But no.

Riddle number 2. Prophetic dream

Nevertheless, Caetana Alba still appeared as a swing on Goya's canvas.

According to legend, the Duchess once had a dream in which the maidservant of her grandmother, who became famous in the capital as a witch, predicted that Caetana would die soon after the artist wrote her in a swing dress. It would seem that superstition and the fear of death should have kept Alba herself from the desire to pose in such a suit. But no. Caetana always loved to play with fire. In addition, much more death obstinate beauty was afraid of old age. Goya very convincingly portrayed the old women in his "Caprichos", and Alba said more than once that she was very much afraid to live to it.

On the rubbish of the duchess for 35 years. In five years, she will die under unexplained circumstances.

Riddle number 3. Is Goya alone?

On the canvas Alba with his finger indicates the inscription at his feet. “Solo Goya” (“Only Goya”) - we read there. In the previous portrait of the duchess in a white dress, the inscription was much more modest. Just an indication of who exactly is depicted and who wrote the portrait. This time, to enhance the effect, even the Alba rings flaunt her name and the name of the artist.

The portrait was painted less than a year after the death of Caetana's consort, Duke Jose Maria Alvarez de Toledo and Gonzaga. Then the widow left Madrid and lived in her family estate. Together with her, Goya lived in the palace.
The Duchess, accustomed to male worship, will goyya and make herself jealous. As soon as their relationship entered a quiet course, Alba immediately found her lovers. So to this day it is not known whose initiative this inscription in the picture had. Perhaps this capricious Caetana had mercy and allowed Goya to be considered the main thing in her life. And maybe in this way Francisco Goya himself wanted to point out that he alone was worth it.

The painting is in the collection of the museum "Spanish Community" (New York, USA).
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Romanticism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1797

Size: 210.1×149.2 cm

Artwork in selections: 15 selections