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Francisco de Goya y Lucientes

Portrait of Carlos López Altamirano


Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
Fuendetodos, Spain, 1746 – Bordeaux 1828


Portrait of Carlos López Altamirano


About 1796


Oil on canvas


84.2 x 62.9 cm


The inscription reads: Goya to his friend Altamirano, Judge of Seville


Purchase, John W. Tempest Fund, inv. 1905.61


Western Art

The 1790s were a period of stylistic transformation for Goya and, despite the fact that he became severely afflicted by a malady that left him deaf, a time of great productivity for the artist. His work both in actual portraiture and caricature demonstrated an increased acuteness of observation, a sensitivity perhaps enhanced by the limitations of his deafness. This painting at once shows Goya’s stylistic evolution and his attachment to Enlightenment ideals, shortly to be suppressed in Spain by a wave of reactionary political expediency. The subject of this portrait was an enlightened magistrate equally interested in reform. Appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal in Seville in August 1791, Altamirano retained the post until his death in 1800. Personal, intimate and honest, the portrait exemplifies the truth to nature that Goya exalted. It emphasizes the wisdom and seriousness of the straggly haired sitter staring at us, isolated in his handsomely painted waistcoat behind an oval framing, with no background. All these pictorial devices contribute to underscoring Altamirano’s sense of vulnerability and circumspection in those uncertain times.

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