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Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga, also known as the “Red Boy”, is a portrait painting of a boy dressed in red clothing of time. The Count of Altamira commissioned several family portraits from Goya from 1756 to 1816, the Red Boy being one of them.
Altamira was well respected at the time and held many titles including the director of Banco de San Carlos. This painting was of the Count’s youngest son named Manuel who met a tragic death at the mere age of eight in 1792.
The painting depicts the boy dressed in a red costume holding a string that is attached to a magpie that appears to be his pet bird. The magpie holds a card in its beak that is the calling card of the Goya. There are three cats that are starring at the bird intently to the left of the painting. On the right side of the piece is a green birdcage on the floor housing several finches.
The animals in the painting have had many different interpretations over the years. Some people believe that the birds in the cage are a symbol of the soul while others thought that it symbolized the boy’s innocence. The cats are thought to be a representation of evil or an evil force.
This connection of the cats being a dark force comes from one of Goya’s other painting entitled “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” where a cat is shown among the evil creatures. The painting as a whole is believed to depict the fleeting nature of youth and innocence coupled with the frail boundaries that divide evil from the child’s world.
While visiting the Joseph Duveen art gallery in Paris, Kathryn Bache Miller took a fond liking to the painting. Jules Bache, Kathryn’s farther, bought the piece for her for $275,000. She decided to keep the Red Boy in her living room where she displayed it with pride.
The art work was described as a living being to Kathryn by her interior decorator, Billy Baldwin. The painting was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by her farther but Kathryn was allowed to periodically show the painting in her house until she passed away in 1979.
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was a Spanish printmaker and painter that was born on 30 March 1764 and died on 16 April 1828. His works are considered romantic in style and he is one of the most influential and important artists to come out of Spain from the 18th to the 19th century. The art he created is seen by many to perfectly chronicle the era that he lived in. Goya was revered by all in his lifetime, especially in Spain, and saw great success throughout his career as an artist. He was commissioned by many influential people of his era to create portraits and other works of art. Many art historians refer to Goya as the first of the modern artists and the last of the Old Masters.