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Work Ferdinand VII Taking the Oath as Prince of Asturias

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Le Serment de Ferdinand VII, dans l'église San Jeronimo el Real

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Author(s):
Grollemund Hélène

In terms of size and the event it commemorates, this drawing is Luis Paret's most remarkable work. In it we see the child Ferdinand - the future King Ferdinand VII (1784-1833) - taking the oath in the church of the royal monastery of San Jerónimo el Real in Madrid, where the kings of Spain were crowned. Perfectly documented, this picture dating from January 1790 was presented to King Charles IV (1748-1819) before the execution of the painting signed and dated 1791.

A commemorative work

This dawing is perfectly documented in the Apuntes (Notes) kept by the etcher and lithographer Pedro González de Sepúlveda (1744-1815), a friend of Paret. In January 1790, he reports that "Paret presented his drawing of the Prince's Oath, the king decreeing that the painting be nine feet so that the foreground figures would measure a 'tierce.'" The description fits the Louvre drawing, which was the model presented to King Charles IV, father of Ferdinand VII, prior to the execution of the painting, signed and dated 1791 and now in the Prado. Such was the importance of the event that a lithograph of the painting was created by the French etcher Asselineau in 1829 (Madrid, Museo Municipal).

A royal image

It was King Charles IV himself who decided on the changes made between the drawing and the painting. In both versions, however, Paret portrays the event in the form of three successive scenes: firstly, Ferdinand, prince of Asturias, enters facing the court in the center, with the Spanish grandees on the Epistle side, and government and Church representatives on the Gospel side; then the Prince is presented to Cardinal Lorenzana (1722-1804), archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain; and lastly, he swears loyalty to his father and Queen Maria Luisa of Parma (1751-1819), both placed in the gallery at the crossing, on the Epistle side. In both works the image is aligned on the taking of the oath by the prince before the patriarch of Toledo, as if in affirmation of the supremacy of spiritual over temporal power. The iconography of this historic scene is royal: the immediate source is an engraving of the oath and homage of Philip V (1683-1746), celebrated at San Jerónimo el Real on May 8, 1701, and a drawing by Charles Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790) in Madrid's Biblioteca Nacional, executed for the wedding of Louis, dauphin of France (1729-1765) and the Infanta Maria Teresa in 1745.

Inventiveness, grace, and delicacy

The Louvre drawing illustrates a technique often used by Paret: exactness of detail captured by fine, incisive strokes with brush and Indian ink, and a total mastery of spatial balance. Paret in fact painted very few historical works, working more in the fields of illustrative drawing and genre scenes. The Indian ink wash lends itself to an infinity of chromatic nuance without ever hampering the spontaneity of the artist's brushstroke. These features fit with the commentary of Ceán Bermúdez (1749-1829) - also a friend of Paret and author of the Diccionario Histórico de los Más Illustres Profesores de las Bellas Artes en España (1800) - and its praise of the "inventiveness, grace, and delicacy" of the work's ornamentation. Paret's sense of precision is reminiscent of the art of the miniature and more especially of the engraving: he also made drawings for etchers.

Bibliography

L. Boubli, in Revue du Louvre, 5/6, 1994, p. 100
José Luis Morales y Marín, Luis Paret: Vida y obra, Saragossa, 1997
L. Boubli, Inventaire des dessins espagnols, entry 208, pp. 181-183

Technical description

  • Luis Paret y Alcazar (Madrid, 1746-Madrid, 1799)

    Ferdinand VII Taking the Oath as Prince of Asturias

    1790

  • Pen and sepia and gray ink, Indian ink wash, black chalk sketch on light beige paper. Frame drawn with pen and Indian ink.

    H. 68.8 cm; W. 47 cm

  • Pedro González de Sepúlveda, early 19th century (?); Viscount of Barcelona before 1957; purchased 1994

    4043408

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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