1875. Oil on panel, 227 x 127 cm.
After establishing himself in Paris as portrait painter to the elegant and cosmopolitan high society of his time, Raimundo de Madrazo cultivated a particularly abundant clientele among the great ladies of the French capital. A posterior trip to America allowed him to expand his client base to include the leading families of New York. In the 1870s, when Raimundo was beginning to make a place for himself among Paris's established portrait painters, he worked mainly for distinguished members of that city's Spanish colony, most of whom belonged to an erudite and extremely wealthy circle that was, in turn, linked to Spanish artists of the greatest international renown. The central figure in this circle was Ramón de Errazu. One member of this restricted group was the Marchioness of Manzanedo, who posed for Raimundo de Madrazo. The result is the present spectacular portrait, unquestionably one of the most exquisite full-length female likenesses ever painted by this artist. Born in Havana on May 24, 1835, she was the legitimated daughter of Juan Manuel de Manzanedo y González (1803-1882), First Marquis of Manzanedo and First Duke of Santoña, by Luisa Intentas Senra. On August 27, 1857, she married another Cuban, Francisco de Paula Mitjans y Colinó (1828-1904) at the Church of Saint Laurence in Paris. After her husband's death, she moved to Madrid, where she died on January 1, 1925.
She stands indoors with no other decoration than the splendid blue floral damask that covers the wall behind her and brings out her elegant figure. Her exquisite silk dress has a mauve bodice and a white striped skirt with rich blonde lace and a large black velvet apron that drapes behind her. With an amiable and languidly cheerful expression, she clasps her hands across her lap. Her adornments are limited to simple diamond earrings, a small feather headdress, and two yellow tea roses at the neck of her dress, which hold the lace scarf that is taken in at the hips.
This masterpiece by Raimundo de Madrazo reveals the most refined essence of his exceptional gifts for this genre, which he inherited and learned from his father, Federico de Madrazo and refined to match the tastes and esthetics of French Second Empire portraiture. Despite the apparent sumptuousness of this portrait, Madrazo actually restrains his depiction of the decorative elements in order to draw the viewer's eye directly to the model. Thus, beyond the rich clothing and wall decoration, Madrazo manages to evoke the lady's vital presence with considerable intensity, capturing her straightforward personality with a natural expression and clothing that allow us to intuit everyday life in the elegant setting of his Cuban client's Paris residence.
The decorative sobriety of the painted portrait, which is strictly limited to the lady's own clothing, is spectacularly complemented by the canvas's superb original frame, which Madrazo undoubtedly already had in mind when he planned the work's composition. The impressive boxwood frame is fully carved with valences and rinceaux topped by a garland and a quiver bearing brass curtains that hang down both sides of the portrait. This frame, which is by far the richest and most spectacular of any in the Museo del Prado's collection of 19th-century painting, is signed at the bottom on both sides with the mark of the prestigious firm, GUÉRET FRÈRES / PARIS 1876, and its very fine carving is a masterpiece of virtuoso work, especially the roses and lilacs on the garland, clearly expressing the protagonist's sumptuous yet elegant taste (Text drawn from Díez, J. L.: El siglo XIX en el Prado. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 326-328).