Although Goya is now best known for his innovative and incisive depictions of such themes as the excitement of the bullring and horrors of the Napoleonic wars, it was as a portraitist that he first gained fame among his countrymen. In 1783, Goya was called to Arenas de San Pedro by the Infante Don Luis, brother of Charles III, to paint a family portrait. He also painted individual portraits of family members such as this one.
Ingenuous but self-assured, the future countess wears the fashionable attire of a lady of the Spanish court as she poses at the edge of a terrace. She gazes out at the viewer with an innocence very much in contrast with her adult costume and mature stance. In the style of earlier "grand-manner" portraiture, Goya may have manipulated the setting to enhance the image of the diminutive sitter, perhaps adjusting the scale of the parapet to her size and placing the wall close to her.
This is one of four portraits by Goya of María Teresa, with whom he maintained a lifelong sympathetic relationship. One of the most tragic figures at the court of Charles IV, the countess was trapped in a humiliating marriage to the King's minister, Manuel Godoy, arranged by the Queen, Maria Luisa, for her own duplicitous purposes.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/spanish-painting-15th-19th-centuries.pdf
lower left: LA S.D. MARIA TERESA / HIXA DEL SER. INFANTE / D. LUIS / DE EDAD DE DOS ANOS Y NUEVE MESES (The S[enorita] D[oña] Teresa, daughter of the Most Serene Infante, Don Luis, at the age of two years and nine months); bears inventory marks from the collection at Boadilla del Monte, probably by nineteenth-century hands, at lower left: B; at lower right: 15.5
Commissioned by the Infante Don Luis de Borbón [1727-1785], Palace of Arenas de San Pedro, near Avila; by inheritance to his daughter, the sitter [1779-1828], Palace at Boadilla del Monte, near Madrid; by inheritance to her only child, Carlota Luisa de Godoy y Borbón [1800-1886], Condesa de Chinchón, Duquesa de Alcudia y de Sueca, Boadilla del Monte, in whose possession it was recorded in 1867 and 1886; by inheritance to her son, Adolfo Ruspoli [1822-1914], Duque de Sueca, Conde de Chinchón; possibly bought in or purchased by the family at his (liquidation sale, Paris, 7 February 1914); his daughter, Maria Teresa Ruspoli y Alvarez de Toledo, wife of Henri-Melchior Cognet Chappuis, Comte de Maubou de la Roue, Paris;; her nephew, Don Camilo Carlos Adolfo Ruspoli y Caro [1904-1975], Conde de Chinchón, Duque de Alcudia y de Sueca, Madrid, by 1951. Sold by the family by March 1957 to (Wildenstein & Co., New York); purchased 2 March 1959 by Ailsa Mellon Bruce, New York; gift to NGA 1970.
- Goya: The Condesa de Chinchon and Other Paintings, Drawings, and Prints from Spanish and American Private Collections and the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986-1987, unpaginated brochure.
- Goya: La imagen de la mujer [Goya: Images of Women], Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2001-2002, no. 30 (Spanish cat.), no. 21 (English cat.), color repro.
- Goya e la tradizione italiana, Fondazione Magnani-Rocca, Parma, 2006, no. 27, repro.
- Goya: Order & Disorder, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2014-2015, no. 48, repro.
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- Hughes, Robert. Goya. New York, 2003: 113-114, color repro.
The painting is on a coarse, open-weave fabric attached to a lining fabric of heavy plain weave. The thin red ground does not conceal the fabric texture. Goya applied paste-consistency oils directly with a great deal of certainty. Because the dog is the only compositional element that overlaps adjacent areas, it seems possible that Goya had not planned to include the dog when he began the portrait. There is very little evidence of glazing. The painting is in fairly good condition with slight losses and abrasion. There is retouching in the sky at upper left, at the bottom of María Teresa's skirt (between her right shoe and the dog), and in the foliage at bottom left. The red ground may be more prominent in the sky now than at the time of the portrait's completion due to a combination of minor abrasion and increased transparency of the blue-white mix.