María Tomasa de Palafox y Portocarrero, Marchioness of Villafranca, Painting her Husband Francisco de Goya Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

This 1804 oil-on-canvas painting by Francisco de Goya is a clever and witty work. It's basically a portrait of a couple, The Marquess and Marchioness of Villafranca, who were great patrons of the arts.

Goya was one of their favourite artists. In this portrait, the Marchioness is seen as an artist, painting her husband's portrait. No doubt, the Marchioness was a great arts patron in her own right, quite apart from being part of a prominent couple. However, Goya has used painter's license to make this portrait of the couple into a tribute to their patronage of all things artistic. The Marchioness has the painters tools, the easel, brushes and oils. But in reality, she probably wouldn't have been so accomplished. Painting in oils is a difficult skill to master. It's not that ladies couldn't do it. Ladies, however, didn't receive this type of training in her time.

The only ladies who would have had access to the tools of the artist's trade would have been those married to or who were family members of painters. The husband's portrait is detailed and lifelike and of course, the work of Goya. Her artist's tools rest on a side table. She sits, wearing a white, empire line dress, on an elegant armchair with her feet on a footstool. She looks towards her subject, who's not seen in the picture. Her husband's portrait is seen, however. It seems to look at her with what seems to be deep devotion. This delightful and fascinating portrait and study of a married couple is housed in the collection of the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Here, it continues to attract and delight admirers well into the 21st century.

Francisco de Goya led a tremendously successful life. At least, he did in the earlier stage of it. A successful painter of the romantic movement, he was a prestigious court painter and was patronised by aristocrats and prominent people in his society. Yet after the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and the ensuing tragedies, not to mention his being plagued by distressing health problems, he became morose and depressive. He seemed to struggle with dark forces within himself. As he advanced in age, he withdrew from public life and exiled himself from his country. Yet he must have missed those earlier, glorious days when he painted and moved among the members of the cream of Spanish high society.

María Tomasa de Palafox y Portocarrero, Marchioness of Villafranca, Painting her Husband in Detail Francisco de Goya