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"Goya: The Family of the Infante Don Luis"
2001-12-01 until 2002-03-03
National Gallery
London, , UK United Kingdom

Don Luís was the younger brother of King Charles III of Spain. Although he was made Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo at the age of eight, he had little interest in church matters and in his late 20s he gave up his ecclesiastical responsibilities with a great sigh of relief. He delighted in court life, collected pictures, was fond of music (he employed Boccherini as his composer) and was a very keen huntsman.

He also had a dangerous weakness for women that was eventually to prove his undoing. In 1775, the French ambassador at the Spanish court reported that the Infante had arranged for three 'mujerzuelas', or prostitutes, to meet him in the woods while he was hunting with the king. Charles III decided to take firm action and obliged him to marry. Don Luís chose the beautiful Aragonese aristocrat, Doña María Teresa de Vallabriga, 32 years his junior. The King would not allow them to frequent the court and so in 1779 they retired to Don Luís's palace at Arenas de San Pedro, to the west of Madrid.

It was there that Goya went to paint the large portrait of the 'Family of the Infante Don Luís'. This rarely-seen picture blends ceremony and informality in an intimate rendering of family life at the 'mini court' of the Infante. He is seen in profile, playing cards, while his wife is having her hair coiffed. Their children and members of the household stand around looking in various directions. It was Goya's first important royal commission, and he proudly included himself in the composition, seated in front of a prepared canvas with his brush poised for action. The painting has been lent by the Magnani-Rocca Foundation near Parma, and is part of the collection formed by the art historian and writer on music, Luigi Magnani (1906 - 1984).


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