PRINT February 1964



ACQUIRED IN 1958 AS A RESULT of the scholarly pursuit of Dr. Richard Brown, present Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Portrait of the Marquesa de Santa Cruz by Goya is prized as one of the museum’s principal acquisitions of the decade. The Marquesa was a famous beauty and an intellectual leader of her society. Born to the Ninth Duke and Duchess of Osuna in 1884, she was brought up in a house devoted to art and classical learning. Osuna had a great admiration for and personal friendship with Goya who enjoyed both the personal attachment to one of the greatest aristocratic families in Spain and the atmosphere of intellectual freedom encouraged there.

The Portrait is one of two paintings of the Marquesa by Goya. This, the first, was probably painted in 1804 at the time of her marriage to Don Silva-Bazan y Waldstein. The Marquesa is represented in the role of Erato, the Muse of Love Song or Love Poetry. Her classic costume reflects the prevailing taste of the time as well as an Empire line derived from current French fashion. The lyre is a symbol used frequently with various muse figures. The grape-leaf crown is atypical and yet grapes and wine are often tied to literature and music in classical references. The Marquesa de Santa Cruz was a young, beautiful, recently married woman, committed by birth to assert herself as an individual. This depiction of her in the role of Erato was only slightly less daring for the period than Alba’s famous nude portrait. Certainly not unaware of that famous painting, the Marquesa may well have felt it to be a challenge to measure up to Alba’s daring. The second portrait, in the collection of Don Felix Valdes, Bilbao, is a more demure and “official” portrait. It was executed in 1805 and was possibly intended as the more modest family portrait to hang in one of her parents’ palaces along with all of the other family portraits by Goya.

The painting, shown at The Prado throughout the year 1953, measures 49 1/2'' x 81 3/4'' which is almost the standard measure for Goya’s full length portraits. It is painted on a canvas support of precisely the same weave as that of other Goya paintings of the same year. Taken by the Duke of Wellington with a large body of works of art in 1813 at the time of the Battle of Vitoria, the work languished in the Duke’s country house, unacknowledged for more than a century. It should be noted that Dr. Brown’s exhaustive essay in the Museum’s Bulletin of the Art Division, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1958, describes the history, iconography and technique of the painting with unusual mastery—a genuine contribution to the literature.

Gerald Nordland