Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 17461828)
Etching, drypoint, burin, roulette, and aquatint; working proof of the third state; 16 x 12 3/4 in. (40.5 x 32.5 cm)
Promised Gift of Derald H. and Janet Ruttenberg
To a remarkable degree, Goya's art was his own invention. Only his fellow countryman Velázquez might have claimed credit for his achievement. In 1778, Goya created a group of etchings reproducing the palace collection of Velázquez's portraits of royalty and their retinues, among them the most admired of his grand and flamboyant canvases, Las Meninas. In this seemingly surreptitious portrait, the Infanta Margarita Teresa, coddled by her nannies, is presented from the viewpoint of her royal parents, who pose before the painter. (The couple are reflected in the back-wall mirror.) The spatial and tonal complexities of Velázquez's magnificent large picture ultimately proved daunting to Goya, who tried to approximate them on a much smaller scale and in black and white. Without the color and substance of oil paint to aid in the definition of so cavernous a room, illuminated by brightness entering through front windows and an open doorway in back, the composition's middle ground collapsed. Goya captured admirably the delicacy of the wistful infanta's features and her finery, ably characterizing her handmaidens and other colorful members of her entourage, but the vast recesses of the gallery-turned-painter's studio defied description.
After worrying over his etching plate with successive lines and layers of aquatint in an attempt to achieve the proper depths of black, Goya finally abandoned the overworked plate; only a handful of proofs survive to track his intensive efforts. In all, Goya had intended to produce twenty-one etchings after Velázquez, but only eleven were published.