The White Duchess 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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The White Duchess is a painting by Francisco de Goya, and it is sometimes referred to as the Duchess of Alba. The commission for the painting was sent out in 1795, and with it, Goya was required to paint life-size portraits of the Duchess of Alba and her husband.

As is evident from the portrait, the duchess was a stunning beauty. She is portrayed in an elegant white dress and has a red sash around her waist. She also has a ribbon on her chest and another one on her long black hair. It is interesting to note that the Duchess of Alba was descended from a long line of royalty and was one of the most famous and fascinating women of her day. Almost every man who met and wrote about her noted how charming she was. The White Duchess can be contrasted to the fairly famous Black Duchess painting, which portrays her in a lower-class black dress. When the White Duchess piece was painted, it was more common for noblewomen to dress in the French manner.

But later, upper-class women would adopt styles from the Maja or members of the lower classes, and this is probably because the Majas were known to be proud and unaccountable. In the White Duchess painting, the woman is covered in elegant jewellery, and with her index finger, she points to Goya's autograph. The autograph in this painting is dated 1795. Goya also inscribed his autograph in the Black Duchess painting, and the duchess can again be seen pointing to it. Her white dress has gold embroidery, and this signifies her wealth. It is worth noting that the Duchess of Alba was quite wealthy and at one point even became the richest woman in Spain.

The painting was created in the Romanticism style but features elements of Neoclassical art. It is possible that Goya was influenced by artists such as William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, and George Romney. All of these were English painters who were highly influential, and Goya may have seen their work from black and white reproductions. To complete this piece, the artist used the oil on canvas medium. The Duchess of Alba was the subject of several paintings by Francisco de Goya, and she is believed to have had a scandalous affair with Goya. However, there is no evidence that the two were ever in a romantic relationship.

The White Duchess in Detail Francisco de Goya