In yesterday’s article I showed paintings which had been successful in Spain between 1757-1775, a period in which King Carlos III’s taste for Anton Raphael Mengs’ work dominated Spanish art. Shortly before the French Revolution, the neo-classicism of Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) became the major influence in both France and Spain.
David had met and became influenced by Mengs when the young artist was studying in Rome, as the winner of the Prix de Rome in 1774. When David returned to Paris in 1780, he quickly established himself with the Royal Academy, and the King granted him lodging in the Louvre.
David made his original and large painting of The Oath of the Horatii in 1784-85 when he was still in Rome. Above is a better image of the smaller copy made by the artist in 1786, now in Toledo, OH. This was commissioned for King Louis XVI, as an allegory about loyalty to the state and the monarch, which David interpreted as a message about the nobility of patriotic sacrifice. He cunningly left the viewer to decide where that loyal patriotism should be directed.
David was completing The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (1789) at the start of the French Revolution, which turned out to be a highly appropriate moment for the work. When it was rumoured in the press that the monarchy intended to prevent this painting from being shown in the 1789 Salon, there was uproar, and it was permitted. It was quickly seen as showing the values required of the French people in supporting the revolution, even if they had to see members of their own family die in the process.
As far as I’m aware, although David lived in Rome, Paris and Belgium, he never visited Spain. However, his influence on Spanish painting was significant.
Vicent López y Portaña (1772–1850) was made an honorary court painter to King Carlos IV in 1802, and was appointed Royal Court Painter to Ferdinand VII in succession to Goya. The Catholic Monarchs Receiving the Embassy of the King of Fez from 1790 shows King Fernando II of Aragon and Queen Isabel I of Castile receiving the ambassadors of the kingdom of Fez, now the northern part of Morocco, closest to Spain.
Although López copied The Adoration of the Sacred Form by Carlos II of Spain from a late seventeenth century painting by Claudio Coello in about 1791-92, the influence of neo-classicism is clear.
López painted Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene between 1795-1800. He was also a prolific portrait painter, and made the last known portrait of Goya in 1826, when the sitter was eighty, just two years before Goya’s death.
José de Madrazo y Agudo (1781–1859) is one of few artists to have studied under both Ferro (student of Mengs) and David. He painted Jesus in the House of Annas in 1803 shortly before travelling to Paris to learn from David, although it already shows strong tendencies towards neo-classical style.
De Madrazo painted his huge Death of Viriatus, Chief of the Lusitanians in 1807 when he was in Rome, training there at the Accademia di San Luca, and today many consider it to be his masterpiece. Viriatus was murdered by his own men, with the collusion of his enemy the Romans, in 139 BCE. It wouldn’t be difficult to envisage this having been painted in David’s studio, perhaps.
De Madrazo was one of several Spanish artists then in Rome who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the new government of King Joseph I. As a result, they were confined in the Spanish Embassy in the city, where he got to know King Carlos IV, who was in exile there.
De Madrazo painted Divine Love and Profane Love (or perhaps Sacred and Profane Love?) during happier times in 1813, when King Carlos IV appointed him a court painter. Its landscape setting looks strangely antique behind more modern figures.
He returned to Spain in 1818, after the Restoration, where he worked for King Fernando VII building the first catalogue of paintings in the predecessor to what’s now the Museo del Prado. He was also an avid collector, and his family formed a dynasty of artists.
Those are the artists whose paintings Goya would have been most familiar with, and many of them were known to him.