Portrait of Don Juan Antonio Cuervo Francisco de Goya Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This portrait of Don Juan Antonio Cuervo came late in Goya's career and displays an artist at the heights of his artistic powers, albeit starting to suffer from ill health.

The ageing man found here is dressed smartly, clearly wishing to appear in as good a light as possible. He stares directly at us, whilst holding several items that were intended to symbolise his own role within society at that time. His jacket is beautifully embroidered and the style and formality of it helps us to understand that this was someone with a key position. All of his features are honestly depicted by the artist, from the gaunt hands with green veins starting to become more prominent as he entered his latter years. His cheeks are also particularly red, suggesting possibly high blood pressure or perhaps a keen eye for alcohol. We can almost see his own life captured through the various imperfections of his own appearance and the larger image below will help you to see these in greater detail.

Goya was someone who survived financially through his talents as a portrait painter and as his reputation soared across Europe, so new patrons would flood in for the opportunity to have their image created by this highly respected master. He would paint different figures within his lifetime, many hundreds by the end of his career, including members of the royal family, bankers and other high earning individuals. He would also sometimes focus on the poorer areas of society, as well as telling us about the horrors of war, just as many other artists would do in the following centuries. Whilst enjoying the challenges of this genre, he must surely have enjoyed it more when painting out of choice, rather than doing so to earn money and please others.

This painting can now be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art, making it a rare Goya painting to be held outside of Europe. The entry around this painting on their own website describes artist and model as friends in real life. He is seen as an intellectual and was actually serving as the Director of the Royal Academy of San Fernando at the time of this painting. He was also involved in the renovation of Madrid's Church of Santiago which is entirely consistent with the symbolic items that he holds for this portrait. Visitors to the Cleveland Museum of Art will also be able to see other notable artworks from American and European history, such as Twilight in the Wilderness by Frederic Edwin Church, Cupid and Psyche by Jacques Louis David, Hunting near Hartenfels Castle by Lucas Cranach and The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew by Caravaggio.

Portrait of Don Juan Antonio Cuervo in Detail Francisco de Goya