Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



Spain and Portugal



Voyages of discovery and merchant shipping made Portugal and Spain the leading sea powers of Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Under  Philip II, Spain also became the major force behind the Counter-Reformation. A rapid economic and political decline took place in Portugal after 1580 and in Spain after 1600, accelerated by the often weak and conservative governments. This decline lasted until around 1750, when reforms associated with enlightened absolutism elsewhere were carried out in both countries. In the wake of the French Revolution, both countries fell under Napoleon's control.


Spain under the First Bourbons

As the Habsburg dynasty died out, the new Bourbon line temporarily brought Spain under the influence of France. Under mentally ill monarchs Spain lost territories and influence.


In 1700 Charles II, the last Habsburg, who had no heir, bequeathed the Spanish throne to his great-nephew 2 Duke Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV of France.

2 King Louis XIV proclaims the
Duke of Anjou to be king of Spain

The Austrian Habsburgs countered this with their own claims to the throne. They were supported by the British, who feared French hegemony. In the War of Spanish Succession, the two sides fought for their claims. However, when the Habsburg pretender Charles III succeeded his brother Joseph I as Holy Roman emperor, his erstwhile allies began to fear an increase in Habsburg power. In the end, the inheritance was divided: The grandson of Louis XIV was recognized as King Philip V of Spain in 1713-1714 by the treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt but was forced to renounce his and his descendents' claims to the French throne. The Habsburgs also received the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands and Italy, while Great Britain gained Minorca and Gibraltar.

The psychologically unstable 1 Philip V (ruled 1700-1746) was heavily influenced by his second wife 4 Isabella Farnese, princess of Parma and Piacenza, who wished to secure crowns for her own sons.


1 Philip V by Jean Ranc

Philip V

king of Spain
also called (until 1700) Philippe, Duc (duke) d’Anjou

born Dec. 19, 1683, Versailles, Fr.
died July 9, 1746, Madrid

King of Spain from 1700 (except for a brief period from January to August 1724) and founder of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain. During his reign Spain regained much of its former influence in international affairs.

Philip was a son of the dauphin Louis (son of Louis XIV of France) and of Marie Anne, daughter of Ferdinand, elector of Bavaria. Philip’s whole career was influenced by the fact that he was a grandson of Louis XIV of France and a great grandson of Philip IV, king of Spain. Philip held the title of duc d’Anjou until 1700, when he emerged as a person of political importance. In that year Charles II, the last Habsburg king of Spain, who died without issue, left Philip all his possessions (Spain, Spanish America, the Spanish Netherlands, and parts of Italy). The refusal of Louis XIV to exclude Philip from the line of succession to the French throne resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession. The Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713, deprived Philip of the Spanish Netherlands and of the Italian possessions of the Spanish Habsburgs, but left him the throne of Spain and Spanish America.

During the first 13 years of Philip’s reign France had a dominant influence on the Spanish court, and the French ambassador had a place on the inmost council of state. After the death of his first wife (María Luisa of Savoy) in 1714, Philip came under the influence of his second wife, Princess Isabella Farnese, who was the niece and stepdaughter of the duke of Parma. Because of Isabella’s desire to secure territories in Italy for her sons, Spain became embroiled in conflict with Austria, Great Britain, France, and the United Provinces but managed to secure the succession of Philip and Isabella’s oldest son, Don Carlos (later Charles III of Spain), to the duchy of Parma. Philip abdicated from the Spanish throne in January 1724 in favour of his oldest son, Luis, but was persuaded to become king again after Luis died of smallpox in August 1724. Philip’s reign is noted primarily for the governmental and economic reforms instituted by his French and Italian advisers.

Philip had few intimate friends; his chief interests were religion, hunting, and music. During the last years of his reign he often lapsed into periods of insanity, and his wife largely controlled public affairs.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Philip V by Hyacinthe Rigaud

Philip V by Miguel Jacinto Melendez



First Marriage

Princess Maria Luisa of Savoy

Maria Luisa of Savoy

Philip V married his double-second cousin Princess Maria Luisa of Savoy (17 September 1688 – 14 February 1714) on 3 November 1701 and they had four sons:

Infante Luis-Felipe of Spain (25 August 1707 – 31 August 1724)
Infante Felipe of Spain (2 July 1709 – 18 July 1709).
Infante Felipe of Spain (7 June 1712 – 29 December 1719).
Infante Ferdinand of Spain (23 September 1713 – 10 August 1759).

Second Marriage

He married Elizabeth, Princess of Parma, (25 October 1692 – 11 July 1766), on 24 December 1714, they had seven children:

Infante Carlos of Spain (20 January 1716 – 14 December 1788).
Infante Francisco of Spain (21 March 1717 – 21 April 1717).
Infanta Mariana Victoria of Spain (31 March 1718 – 15 January 1781).
Infante Felipe of Spain (20 March 1720 – 18 July 1765) Duke of Parma and founder of the line of House of Bourbon-Parma.
Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain (11 June 1726 – 22 July 1746).
Infante Luis Antonio Jamie of Spain (25 July 1727 – 7 August 1785), known as the Cardinal-Infante. Was Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain and Cardinal since 1735. In 1754, renounced his ecclesiastical titles and became Count of Chinchón. In 1776, he married morganatically Doña María Teresa de Vallabriga y Rozas and had issue, but without royal titles.
Infanta Maria Antonietta of Spain (17 November 1729 – 19 September 1785).



Elisabeth Maria of Parma 
by Giovanni Maria delle Piane

Elizabeth, Princess of Parma (Isabella Farnese)

queen of Spain
Spanish Isabel de Farnesio, original Italian Elisabetta Farnese

born October 25, 1692, Parma, Duchy of Parma
died July 11, 1766, Aranjuez, Spain

queen consort of Philip V of Spain (reigned 1700–46), whose ambitions to secure Italian possessions for her children embroiled Spain in wars and intrigues for three decades. Her capability in choosing able and devoted ministers, however, brought about beneficial internal reforms and succeeded in improving Spain’s economy.

Isabella was the daughter of Odoardo Farnese (died 1693), the eldest son of Ranuccio II of Parma and Píacenza. She was the second wife of Philip and arrived in Spain in December 1714, whereupon she dismissed the resident royal favourite and quickly established an ascendancy over her weak husband that she continued to exercise until his death in 1746.

Since Philip’s two sons by his first wife were in line to succeed him, the ambitious Isabella sought to secure lands in Italy for the children (four sons and three daughters) she bore the sovereign. This quest dominated her reign, and in the end Spanish imperialism in Italy achieved marked success. Isabella’s eldest son, Charles (afterward Charles III of Spain), and his brother Philip both gained titles to Italian domains.

Isabella favoured ministers who could acquire the resources needed to advance her schemes, and the men she chose not only carried out her foreign policy but also undertook useful economic, administrative, and military improvements. After Philip’s death and the accession of her stepson Ferdinand VI (reigned 1746–59), Isabella ceased to exert any real influence and spent many of her later years away from court, although she did act as regent between the death of Ferdinand VI (August 10, 1759) and the arrival in Spain of his successor, Charles III, in December 1759.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


4 Philip V and Isabella Farnese and family, painting by Van Loo, 1743

Through military and diplomatic pressure following the War of Polish Succession in 1734-1735, the Habsburgs were forced to relinquish Naples and Sicily. After the War of Austrian Succession in 1748, they lost Parma and Piacenza as well.

Philip's attacks of depression soon escalated into phases of mental breakdown and paranoia, and he spent much of the time in retreat at his 3 residences outside Madrid.

3 The gardens of La Granja de San lldefonso, Philip V's summer residence

Meanwhile, the aristocracy, who under the last Habsburgs had already made themselves largely independent on their country estates, blocked all social reform to alleviate the situation of the majority of the population who suffered from poverty and illiteracy.

In Philip's son Ferdinand VI, who succeeded him in 1746, the hereditary depression intensified into chronic mental illness. As he was incapable of governing, Chief Minister Marquis de la Ensenada ruled in his place. While in office he reformed the Spanish finances, making Spain independent of France, and began to introduce a range of Enlightenment-inspired political reforms in the country.


Ferdinand VI by Angel Lopez Rodriguez

Ferdinand VI
king of Spain

born September 23, 1713, Madrid, Spain
died August 10, 1759, Villaviciosa de Odón

third king of Spain of the house of Bourbon, reigning from 1746 to 1759. He pursued a policy of neutrality and gradual reform.

The second son of Philip V and his first wife, Marie-Louise, Ferdinand was given no part in political life during the reign of his father, who was much under the influence of his second wife, Isabella (Elizabeth) Farnese. When Ferdinand succeeded to the throne in July 1746, he decided to avoid entanglements and was able to elude conflicts throughout his reign. He relied on his father’s minister, the able marqués de la Ensenada, who brought about administrative and financial reforms.

Ferdinand was a patron of the arts and learning, founding the Academy of San Fernando for the fine arts in 1752, as well as botanical gardens and an observatory. The economic Societies of Friends of the Country encouraged agricultural and technical advances. His queen, Maria Bárbara of Braganca, to whom he was devoted, shared his love of music and patronized the opera.

In 1753 Ferdinand concluded a concordat with the papacy by which he recovered rights forfeited under the last of the Habsburgs, Charles II—notably the right to appoint bishops and tax the clergy. After the death of Maria Bárbara in 1758, Ferdinand suffered from melancholia and did not long survive her. They had no children, and the crown passed to his half brother, hitherto king of Naples, Charles III.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Maria Bárbara of Braganca

Ferdinand was married in 1729 to Infanta Barbara of Portugal (4 December 1711 – 27 August 1758), daughter of John V of Portugal and Mary Anne of Austria.

Maria Barbara de Braganza by Domenico Dupra
Maria Barbara de Braganza




The Italian castrato singer, Farinelli, performed at the Spanish court from 1737. Born Carlo Broschi in 170s in Italy, he first performed publicly in 1721 and was soon a celebrated star around the opera houses of Europe.

Under Philip V and Ferdinand VI, he initially sang for a small circle of the illustrious—it is said that he was the only one who could please the depressive Philip— but then rose to become the "maitre de plaisir" and an esteemed political advisor in the Spanish court.



Carlo Broschi "Farinelli"




Italian singer

original name Carlo Broschi
born Jan. 24, 1705, Andria, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]
died July 15, 1782, Bologna

celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. He adopted the surname of his benefactors, the brothers Farina.

He studied in Naples under Nicola Porpora, one of the leading 18th-century opera composers and the outstanding voice teacher of the century. At age 15 he made his debut at Rome in Porpora’s serenata Angelica, with a text by the 22-year-old librettist Pietro Metastasio; the singer and the poet formed a lifelong friendship. Farinelli’s reputation spread throughout Italy and to Vienna and London, and he was admired for his pure, powerful voice, his technical proficiency, his skill in florid embellishment, and his musical expression. In 1734 he joined Porpora in London, appearing in his operas and, with the castrato Senesino, in Johann Hasse’s opera Artaserse.

In 1737 Farinelli went to Spain, where his singing alleviated the deep-seated melancholia of Philip V; nightly for nearly 10 years he sang the same songs to the king. Philip died in 1746, but Farinelli stayed in Spain under Ferdinand VI until 1759, achieving distinction as an impresario and also taking an active part in public affairs. Though dismissed from his post at court by Charles III for political differences, he had accumulated great wealth and spent the rest of his life peacefully in Italy.



Spain during the Reigns of Charles III and Charles IV

Charles III enacted reforms in the spirit of enlightened absolutism. Under his son Charles IV, the chief minister, Manuel de Godoy, presided over a political reconciliation with the French Republic.


Francisco de Goya
Manuel Godoy, Duke of Alcudia, "Prince of the Peace"



Manuel de Godoy

prime minister of Spain
in full Manuel de Godoy Álvarez de Faria Ríos Sánchez Zarzosa, príncipe de la Paz y de Basano, duque de Alcudia y de Succa

born May 12, 1767, Castuera, Spain
died October 4, 1851, Paris, France

Spanish royal favourite and twice prime minister, whose disastrous foreign policy contributed to a series of misfortunes and defeats that culminated in the abdication of King Charles IV and the occupation of Spain by the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Born into an old but poor noble family, Godoy followed his brother to Madrid in 1784 and, like him, entered the royal bodyguard. He attracted the attention of Maria Luisa of Parma, wife of the heir to the throne, and soon became her lover. When her husband ascended the throne in 1788 as Charles IV, the domineering Maria Luisa persuaded Charles to advance Godoy in rank and power, and by 1792 he became field marshal, first secretary of state, and duque de Alcudia. From then on Godoy’s hold over the royal family, buttressed by his pliability, guile, and ingratiating nature, rarely, if ever, weakened.

When Godoy was named prime minister in 1792, his first undertaking was to try to save the French king Louis XVI from the guillotine. When that failed, war broke out between France and Spain (1793). Initial Spanish successes were followed by losses, and Godoy negotiated the Peace of Basel (1795), for which he was given the title príncipe de la Paz (prince of the Peace) by his grateful sovereign.

To strengthen ties with France, Godoy negotiated an alliance against England in the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1796). War was soon declared, and Spain suffered a major naval defeat off Cape St. Vincent. France proved an unfaithful ally and showed little scruple in betraying Spanish interests. In 1798 Godoy was removed from office, though in temporary retirement he continued to enjoy royal favour and wield great influence. When Godoy was reinstated in 1801, the war with England still raged and Napoleon was dictator of France. Godoy yielded to French pressure and collaborated in an invasion of Portugal, England’s ally, commanding Spanish forces in the three-week War of the Oranges. After Portuguese capitulation, Napoleon sacrificed Spanish interests in the Treaty of Amiens, signed with England in 1802. An opposition party then began to form against Godoy around the heir apparent, Ferdinand (later Ferdinand VII), spurred by growing discontent over the conduct of national affairs.

When war between France and England flared anew in 1803, Godoy managed to maintain neutrality until December 1804, when he guided Spain into joining France once again in declaring war on England. Ten months later Spanish naval power was utterly destroyed in the Battle of Trafalgar. Relations with Napoleon gradually improved, and in the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau (1807), in which Spain and France agreed to the partition of Portugal, Godoy was offered the kingdom of Algarve, in southern Portugal. Several months later, however, Spain learned that France planned to seize certain of its northern provinces. The court, seeking to establish a government in exile, attempted to flee the country, but at Aranjuez a mob, loyal to Ferdinand, nearly killed Godoy and forced Charles IV to abdicate in his son’s behalf. Godoy was then arrested by Ferdinand, and in May 1808 all three—Godoy, Ferdinand, and Charles—were enticed across the border into France, where they became prisoners of Napoleon. Godoy stayed with Charles in Rome until the former king’s death in 1819. He then lived in obscurity in Paris on a modest French royal pension until 1847, when Isabella II of Spain restored his titles and returned some of his confiscated estates.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


A reversal of conditions in Spain took place when Ferdinand VI was succeeded by his half-brother 5 Charles III in 1759.

Charles III, on the Clergy:
"The Bishops have nothing to give away; everything they own belongs to the poor;
therefore they should sell it and distribute it as alms."


5 King Charles III of Spain, by A.R.Mengs, 1761, Prado

Charles III
king of Spain

born January 20, 1716, Madrid, Spain
died December 14, 1788, Madrid

King of Spain (1759–88) and king of Naples (as Charles VII, 1734–59), one of the “enlightened despots” of the 18th century, who helped lead Spain to a brief cultural and economic revival.

Early years
Charles was the first child of Philip V’s marriage with Isabella of Parma. Charles ruled as duke of Parma, by right of his mother, from 1732 to 1734 and then became king of Naples. On the death of his half-brother Ferdinand VI in 1759—after a useful apprenticeship of 25 years as an absolute ruler—he became king of Spain and resigned the crown of Naples to his third son, Ferdinand I. Charles III was convinced of his mission to reform Spain and make it once more a first-rate power. He brought considerable qualities to the task. In spite of a fanatical addiction to hunting, his frugality and his application to the business of government impressed foreign observers as well as his own subjects. His religious devotion was accompanied by a blameless personal life and a chaste loyalty to the memory of his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony, who died in 1760. On the other hand, he was so highly conscious of royal authority that he sometimes appeared more like a tyrant than an absolute monarch. His greatest quality, however, was his ability to select effective ministers and continually to improve his government by bringing in men of outstanding quality, notably the conde de Aranda and the conde de Floridablanca. While conferring with them regularly, Charles was wise enough to give them sufficient freedom of action. The survival of Spain as a colonial power and, therefore, as a power to be reckoned with in Europe was one of the main objects of Charles’s policy. His foreign policy, however, was not successful. Fearing that a British victory over France in the Seven Years’ War would upset the balance of colonial power, he signed the Family Compact with France—both countries were ruled by branches of the Bourbon family—in August 1761. This brought war with Great Britain in January 1762. Charles overrated his own strength and prospects and those of his ally. Sharing in the defeat, he lost Florida to England and revealed Spanish naval and military weakness. In the American Revolution, Charles III was caught between a desire to embarrass his colonial rival, which accounts for his undercover aid to the American revolutionaries from 1776, and fear for his own American possessions, which led him to offer his mediation in 1779. When Great Britain refused his conditions, he declared war, but, at the same time, he refused to recognize the United States’s independence. Charles was more successful in strengthening his own empire.

Commercial reforms, designed to open new routes and new ports for trade between Spain and the colonies, were undertaken from 1765. Territorial readjustments were carried out in the interest of defense, and a modern administrative organization—the intendant system, of French origin and already operating in Spain itself—was introduced. The intendants, who had executive, judicial, and military power, improved local administration and linked it directly with the crown rather than with the viceroy. Released from the former commercial restrictions, secured against attack, and with the prospect of better administration, the Spanish empire under Charles III assumed a new look.

Domestic reforms
In Spain Charles was concerned to make himself more absolute and therefore better able to undertake reform. His ecclesiastical policy was conditioned by his determination to complete the subordination of the church to the crown. He allowed no papal bulls or briefs in Spain without royal permission. He particularly resented the Jesuits, whose international organization and attachment to the papacy he regarded as an affront to his absolutism. Suspecting their loyalty and obedience to the crown in the American colonies, he also chose to believe that they were the instigators of the violent riots in Madrid and elsewhere in 1766. After a commission of investigation, he ordered their expulsion from Spain and the colonies (1767). In 1773, cooperating with the court of France, Charles succeeded in procuring from the papacy the complete suppression of the society. But Charles’s opposition to papal jurisdiction in Spain also led him to curb the arbitrary powers of the Inquisition, while his desire for reform within the church caused him to appoint inquisitors general who preferred persuasion to force in ensuring religious conformity. Charles III improved the agencies of government through which the will of the crown could be imposed. He completed the process whereby individual ministers replaced the royal councils in the direction of affairs. In 1787, with the assistance of Floridablanca, he coordinated the various ministries by establishing a council of state whose regular meetings could produce a concerted policy. He tightened crown control of local government by stimulating his intendants and giving the Council of Castile supervision of municipal finances. The objective of his government was to create the conditions in which industry and trade could improve. By the end of his reign, Spain had abandoned its old commercial restrictions and, while still excluding foreigners, had opened up the entire empire to a commerce in which all its subjects and all its main ports could partake. Protected against foreign competition, the native cotton industry grew rapidly, and the state itself intervened in the production of luxury goods. Charles III’s agrarian policy, however, timid in face of landed interests, failed to deal with the greatest obstacles to agricultural progress and to the welfare of the rural masses in Spain—large untilled estates and legally unalterable succession in the inheritance of landed property. In fact, strength, rather than welfare, was the aim of Charles III. Within these limits he led his country in a cultural and economic revival, and, when he died, he left Spain more prosperous than he had found it.

John Lynch

Encyclopaedia Britannica

As king of Naples and Sicily since 1735, Charles had already initiated social and economic reforms in southern Italy with the aid of his chief minister Tanucci. The single-minded and industrious king now brought enlightened absolutism to Spain. He began an extensive settlement program to recultivate the rural regions that had been barren for centuries, ordering modern techniques and new strains of plants for the peasants.

Along with a number of 6 palaces and hunting lodges, he built orphanages and workhouses for vagrants.

6 Royal palace of Madrid, designed by Juvara, construction begun under Philip V and completed under Charles III

He improved roads, established banks and carefully controlled colonial revenues. Charles III even took on the Catholic Church.

He ended the Church's monopoly over education and abolished the 9 courts of Inquisition.

9 Public humiliation of man condemned
by the Inquisition, painting, 19th ñ

In foreign affairs, Charles formed an alliance with France in 1761 and participated in the Seven Years' War against Great Britain, which was allied with Prussia against France.

In 1767, he expelled the Jesuits from Spain, confiscated much church property, and distributed it to the 7 peasants.

7 A Village Bullfight, traditional pastime of the peasants, painting by Francisco de Goya, ca. 1819

Charles III was succeeded in 1788 by his son 8 Charles IV, who left much of the affairs of government to his energetic wife, Maria Luisa of Parma, and her protege, Manuel de Godoy, who as chief minister from 1792 continued the policies of Charles III.

Initially Godoy had been an opponent of revolutionary France, but in 1796 he entered into the alliance of San Ildefonso with the French Republic, which obliged Spain to take part in the war against Great Britain. In 1805, the British fleet under Admiral Nelson destroyed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar. As a result Spanish trade routes were decimated.

In 1807, Godoy even attempted to negotiate with Napoleon over the division of French-occupied territories in the hope of gaining southern Portugal as part of the Spanish kingdom. In 1808, however, Godoy was ousted from Aranjuez in a popular uprising. To prevent Spain from defecting to the growing enemy camp, Napoleon forced Charles III and his son Ferdinand to renounce the throne and installed his own brother, Joseph, as king.


8 Portrait of Charles IV by Francisco de Goya

Charles IV
king of Spain

born November 11, 1748, Portici, Kingdom of Naples
died January 20, 1819, Rome, Italy

king of Spain (1788–1808) during the turbulent period of the French Revolution, who succeeded his father Charles III.

Lacking qualities of leadership himself, Charles entrusted the government (1792) to Manuel de Godoy, a protégé of the queen, Maria Luisa of Parma. Their adherence to the First Coalition against Revolutionary France led to a French invasion in 1794. In July 1795 the conflict with France was ended by the Peace of Basle, which was followed the next year by the Treaty of San Ildefonso, an alliance between Spain and France against England. When Napoleon again occupied northern Spain in 1807, Charles, threatened by a coup, tried to flee to America, but was stopped and forced to abdicate by supporters of his son Ferdinand (March 1808). The following May, Napoleon deposed both Charles and Ferdinand, placing his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. Charles spent the rest of his life in exile.


Encyclopaedia Britannica


see also:

Francisco de Goya




Portrait of the Royal Family

Francisco de Goya



The baker on the corner and his wife, after they won the lottery!

Theophile Gautier on Goya's The Family of Charles IV


Francisco de Goya
Charles IV and his Family
c. 1800
Museo del Prado, Madrid


Did Goya want to caricature the king and his family? To criticize them? To this day there are questions about the over three-meter (11-feet)-wide painting of The Family of Charles IV. In May 1800,Goya traveled out to the royal summer palace at Aranjuez to begin work on this major commission by painting several portrait studies. The queen would have preferred to have done without the boring sittings, but when she saw the oil sketches, she was thrilled. Goya first painted each member of the family individually, on canvas prepared in red. He only sketched the clothing, concentrating completely on the expressions and facial features. The studies of the six-year-old Infante Francisco de Paula are a wonderful example of animation in a portrait study.


Francisco de Goya
Portrait Study of the Infante Francisco de Paula


Las Meninas

 The older members of the family appear more distant, though they are by no means portrayed as excessively ugly. Goya represents them unassumingly-as people, not better looking, more reflective, or more important than anyone else. They do not have the dignified, regal authority that usually emanates from portraits of a royal house. Goya's attention to the sparkling medals, the splendor of the jewelry and the clothes clearly underlines this point. The composition of the family portrait was planned very precisely. The task was difficult enough: thirteen standing individuals, but grouped in such a manner that the composition produced a well-balanced but not dull arrangement. At the same time, it was necessary to depict the individual royal personages according to their rank. In the center, clearly lit, stands the 48-year-old queen in her sumptuous and fashionable Empire-style dress, holding her youngest children with maternal solicitude.

Slightly in front of the queen stands the king. Counterbalancing him, the heir to the throne. Prince Ferdinand, stands to the left, in a blue coat. As his future bride had yet to be chosen, the young woman at his side, dressed exactly like the queen, is turning her face away, as if by chance. On the right-hand side of the painting, almost hidden behind the king, we see his brother, Don Antonio Pascual, and the Infanta Dona Carlotta Joaquina, and in front of them, the Prince of Parma and his young wife, her baby son in her arms. In the semi-darkness to the left, we see the artist himself with his large canvas. His head is at the same level as those of the royal family - he is not representing himself as a subject and courtier here, but as an independent, sober observer and organizer of the event.

At the same time, this is a reference to the foreground of Velazquez' Las Meninas, where the painter places himself to the far left (opposite). This most famous of Spanish group paintings shows the little Infanta Marguerita surrounded by her maids of honor in a room in the Alcazar fortress filled with paintings. As in Velazquez' painting, Goya's court group also seems to be looking at themselves in a mirror while the artist paints them.




Francisco de Goya
Portrait of Queen Maria Luisa

The queen, who was known for her vanity, is shown as a woman elegantly dressed, wearing a black lace mantilla, high comb, and fan. A dress like this, which cost thousands of reales, was the last word in fashion and would have been worn by the women of the higher aristocracy as well as (in simpler versions) by the prostitutes on the streets of Madrid. The similarity with the Portrait of the Duchess of Alba is plain-a comparison that was to the queen's disadvantage



Francisco de Goya
Portrait of Queen Maria Luisa



Francisco de Goya
Portrait of Queen Maria Luisa



Francisco de Goya
La Infanta Maria Isabel



Francisco de Goya
El infante Don Carlos María Isidro



Francisco de Goya
La infanta Dona María Josefa

see also:

Francisco de Goya



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