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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)
Left: Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist’s Grandson, and Right: Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist’s Grandson (verso), 1827, oil on canvas. Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum Purchase with Funds Donated by The Meadows Foundation and a Gift from Mrs. Eugene McDermott, in honor of the Meadows Museum’s 50th Anniversary, MM.2013.08. Photo by Dimitris Skliris
In July of 1827, Goya made the long journey from Bordeaux, his city of self-imposed exile since 1824, to Madrid. There, the eighty-one year old artist would sojourn until his return to France on September 20, 1827. The reason for this arduous travel at such an advanced age remains unknown; it has been speculated that Goya may have gone to verify the ongoing transfer of his pension as First Court Painter since his retirement the previous year. Scholar of Spanish art and Caroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, Jonathan Brown has also speculated that the artist was coerced by his companion, Leocadia Zorilla de Weiss, to amend his will of 1811 to provide for her and her two children, Guillermo and Rosario. Apart from a letter of little consequence from the artist to Leocadia in August, no other written documentation of this trip to Madrid has yet been uncovered. Whatever the reason for this trip, it resulted in one of the artist’s greatest masterpieces, the portrait of his beloved grandson, Mariano.
Painted only months before Goya’s death on April 16, 1828, Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist’s Grandson is a testament to the genius, resolute skill, and unfaltering creativity of an artist who persevered with his craft to his very last days in spite of physical fragility. Goya’s depiction of his only grandson is a superb example of his late portraits, free from the decorum and traditional conventions requisite for his earlier commissioned portraits of royalty and of aristocratic blood.