Published: December 13, 2011
The San Diego Museum of Art will hang its newest addition to the permanent collection, an Eighteenth Century painting by Anton Raphael Mengs, a portrait of Don Luis de Borbón, among the museum’s collection of Spanish art.
“Although Spanish art is one of the museum’s strengths, the collection has not had a Spanish painting made between the 1650s †the date of our late Zurbarán and early Murillo †and 1795, the date of our great portrait by Goya. This portrait by Mengs, the leading artist in Spain in the 1760s and 70s, begins to fill that gap,” said John Marciari, curator of European art at the museum. “The Don Luis de Borbón portrait will hang proudly alongside our works by Goya and Pompeo Batoni, giving us a spectacular display of European portraiture from the later Eighteenth Century.”
Mengs (1728‱779) was famous throughout Europe during his lifetime. In the 1740s and 50s he divided his time between Dresden and Rome, winning major commissions for portraits and fresco paintings in both cities. In Rome, he was also closely associated with the archaeologist and writer Johann Joseph Winckelmann, and their research into Greek art made them key figures in the rise of neoclassicism. Despite his importance as a theoretician and as a history painter, however, Mengs was most accomplished in the field of portraiture; the Don Luis de Borbón displays his delicacy and refined touch in the genre.
From 1761 onward, Mengs spent much of his time in Spain and was eventually named Primer Pintor (First Painter) and executed portraits of the royal family. Don Luis (1727‱785), the younger brother of King Charles III, had been destined for a career in the church and was named cardinal at age 8, although he later renounced that office and became the Count of Chinchón. Living in semi-exile outside of Madrid, he became an important patron of the arts and was responsible for commissioning, for example, Francisco de Goya’s first major works.
Marciari will lecture on this painting, telling the story behind the acquisition and giving more details of the fascinating lives of both Mengs and Don Luis, on Saturday, February 11, at 10:30 am.
The San Diego Museum of Art is at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park. For information, www.TheSanDiegoMuseumofArt.org or 619-232-793.
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