Portrait of Ferdinand VII of Spain 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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Francisco de Goya is one of the most famous Spanish artists in history, comparing favourably with the likes of Velazquez, Murillo and Zurbarán. He was particularly skilled in the genre of portraiture, as shown in this depction of Ferdinand VII of Spain.

This was an artist who was able to cover a large number of different figures during his career, which contrasts somewhat to the earlier court painter of Diego Velazquez, who was mainly confined to portraits of King Philip IV and members of his family. This piece in front of us here, features the confident looking man leaning onto a table. We find a number of objects alongside him here, many of which have been added for symbolic value. The outfits of this period were bright and impressive, ideally suited to artist's work, where a palette can be clearly defined. The various ribbons, medals and other adornments that they would wear also added interest to the final painting. As one of the most respected portrait painters, Goya's services would be in high demand. Indeed, it would become something of an honour to sit for this true master and to then have a your own picture hanging up soon after. Ferdinand looks smart and his hair is simple but tidy.

The gentleman's trousers are a dark black, with white or creme coloured stockings. A blue and white striped ribbon hangs from his shoulder, down to his opposing side. There appears to be a sword handle showing from around his left leg and his wrists feature beautiful embroidery, which continues onto the front of his jacket. The collar is tall and firm, with a small shirt showing through from beneath. His sideburns are thick and brown, seemingly uncrafted. Behind him is a large scultpure of a woman, though the artist deliberately softens the colours to help it merge with the rest of the background to avoid distracting one's eyes from the main subject. His facial expression, generally the most important thing within a portrait, is serious but confident, comfortable within his surroundings and high ranking status.

Research into the career of Goya reveals that this artist produced many portraits of this leading figure, with this painting coming in 1814. It is now in the collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo de Santander y Cantabria, an impressive but relatively small art gallery. They actually consider this artwork to be the most famous in all their collection, but a visit here will also give you the opportunity to see other European artists from the 16th to 18th century, though few are as high profile as Francisco de Goya. They also hold several other pieces from his career, including some prints from various series of engravings at other points in his career. In all, this is not one of the artist's more famous portraits of Ferdinand VII of Spain, but is technically as impressive as any of them and deserves perhaps a little more recognition within the artist's career than it has yet received.