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Work The Countess del Carpio, Marquesa de La Solana

Department of Paintings: Spanish painting

The Countess of Carpio, Marquesa de la Solana

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Spanish painting

O. Delenda, M-C Le Bourdellès

The well-read aristocrat and playwright Maria Rita Barrenechea (1757–1795) married the Count del Carpio, Marquis of Solana, in 1775. This work was painted shortly before the model's death.

The portrait of a great lady

Maria Rita Barrenechea, Marquesa de La Solana, married Juan de Mata Linares, a high official in Madrid who was very close to Jovellanos, lawyer and patron of Goya. The couple, who was friendly with the famous Duchess of Alba, lived near Goya's home in Madrid, and was typical of the "enlightened" Spanish who took an interest in reforms. The countess, who wrote moralistic plays, was renowned for her charity. Her portrait probably dates from late 1794 or early 1795; she died in December 1795.
She wears a traditional black dress with a Basquine (bodice), and embroidered slippers. The unusual flower in her hair — consisting of large folds of pale pink ribbon — would appear to be a concession to contemporary fashion.

The portait of a sick woman

It seems that this bewitching portrait owes something of its quality to the mutual compassion between painter and model, who were both familiar with suffering. Goya must have admired the courage of this young woman of thirty-eight who knew herself doomed to die, yet stood tall, facing the artist with respect. The portrait is attractive despite the signs of illness; the huge black eyes gaze with gentle solemnity from the gaunt and feverish face. The extreme simplicity of layout and the gray background (free of all distractions) are reminiscent of portraits by Velázquez; the resulting soberness highlights the model's elegance. The transparent gray-blue background and the light gauze of the fichu, painted in delicate, juxtaposed strokes, are treated in an illusionist manner that heralds Impressionism.

Goya, an avant-garde portraitist

By the time he painted the moving portrait of the Marquesa de La Solana, Goya had perfected a personal style which brilliantly transposed and modernized the "Velázquezian" tradition. The recent influence of the great English portraitists Gainsborough and Reynolds (prints of whose works Goya had probably admired) is also perceptible. Goya's ceremonial portraits, with their conventional poses but sophisticated techniques (such as transparence to suggest precious fabrics) gave court ladies new life by accentuating their humanity. Goya perfected the genre with La Solana: an uncompromising psychological study, a dialog between portrait and viewer, a surprising symphony of blacks and grays, and the vibrant suggestion of fabrics, reconstructed by the eye. His avant-garde genius inspired several generations of European artists, including Delacroix and Manet in France.

Technical description

  • Francisco de GOYA (Y LUCIENTES) (Fuendetodos (Aragon), 1746 - Bordeaux, 1828)

    The Countess of Carpio, Marquesa de la Solana

  • H. 1.81 m; W. 1.22 m

  • Deeded gift of Carlos de Beistegui, subject to usufruct, 1942
    Entered the Louvre in 1953 , 1953

    R.F. 1942-23

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Salle des Sept-Cheminées
    Room 660

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