August 12, 2013

Hiding in plain sight.

Madrid is one of the most unexpected and sparkling cities you can visit in Europe. Elegant and somewhat austere, with big traffic from avenues well-regulated, not really a park city (despite the big Parque del Buen) but it is definitely the city par excellence of the great museums, classic or contemporary.

The pink marvel of the Prado is one such fundamental stop, one unmissable destination when ‘in town’ and for me, it is room 37, and the Condesa de ChinchónShe was one of Spain’s unseen Goyas until acquired from the Rúspoli family for a ‘king’s ransom’. 

The countess, a fashionably dressed young woman, sits in a chair to have he portrait painted.  She is almost a contemporary of Gainsborough’s feathery beauties and Ingres’s icily flawless grandes bourgeoises.  But attractive as this girl is, the painting does not flatter; it arouses unease.

Her isolation is what you feel first: her chair is surrounded by darkness.  Under the blond fringe, her dark eyes are apprehensive; her hands are clasped anxiously over the gentle swell of her belly.  Painted by Goya, the greatest painter of an age of anxiety in which the civilized assumptions and institutions of two centuries crumbled.  “The sleep of reason produces monsters,” he wrote, and, in all but the charming rococo work of his youth, chaos, dread, and fear throng the shadows, sometimes assuming monstrous shapes and faces.  Our own age produces little that Goya did not envision.

María Teresa de Borbón, 15th Countess of Chinchón, who had been encouraged by Queen Maria Luisa of Parma and by opportunism to marry Manuel de Godoy, the Prime Minister, in a marriage of convenience.


Alistair from the land of Calvin... said...

O, I saw her at an exhibition at the Villa Favorita, in 1986, when she was still one of Spain's 'unseen Goyas'. Poor woman 'sold' again!

Thank you for the post, will stop by and visit her next time I'm 'in town'.

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

I first encounterd the Countess in my research into the history of malaria and wilst doing this, followed-up with more research into her unhappy life.
It was claimed(later disproved) that the fourth Count of Chinchón, Don Luis Gerónimo Fernández de Cabrera de Bobadilla Cerda y Mendoza, was appointed by Philip IV to rule the vast Spanish South American Empire. The count and his wife, Señora Ana de Osorio, arrived in Lima in 1629. Shortly thereafter, according to Bado, the countess became severely ill with tertian fever, and news of her suffering soon spread throughout the colony. The governor of Loxa wrote the count, recommending that some of the same medicine by which he had been recently cured be given to Señora Ana. Don Juan was summoned to Lima, the remedy given, and the countess cured. But the official diary of the Count of Chinchón, written by his secretary Don Antonio Suardo, and discovered in 1930, contradicts many of the claims made.

Tartanscot said...

Well, actually, it was her husband(whom bty she divorced)who contracted malaria. I find HIS story riveting. Goya made her interesting.