Goya: Order and Disorder

Oct 17, 2014 2:24PM
Goya's iconic 1797 portrait of Maria del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Alvarez de Toledo y Silva, Thirteenth Duchess of Alba, is reproduced from Goya: Order & Disorder, the MFA Boston's gorgeous and immediately indispensible 400-page catalog for the first major Goya exhibition in North America in almost three decades. Until recently, the Prado's Manuela B. Mena Marqués writes in the book, discussions of this portrait—in which the figure famously points to the inscription "Solo Goya/Only Goya" before her feet—"revolved around the sitter's supposed affair with the artist. Several factors, however, argue against such an affair ever having taken place. These include the status of the duchess in 1797 as both a widow and a member of one of Spain's most important noble families, as well as her grief at the unexpected death of her young husband. To these we might add Goya's awareness of social parameters, which—as an artist striving to advance his standing as portraitist of Spain's most esteemed families—he would hardly violate. The inscriptions on the rings worn by the duchess, juxtaposing the names Goya and Alba (and thus equating the name of one of the most distinguished families of Spain with that of a Court Painter), have long been cited as evidence of that affair; however, they were added in the mid-nineteenth century."
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