Goya's Charles IV of Spain (1799)
The exhibition Goya: the Portraits, which opens at the National Gallery in London today, 7 October (until 10 January 2016), has already received glowing reviews. But with less than a month to go before the show’s opening, its guest curator Xavier Bray was delighted—and relieved—to learn that two rare and exceptional loans were in the bag. The twin portraits of Charles IV in Hunting Dress and his formidable wife Maria Luisa wearing a Mantilla have hung in the Palacio Real in Madrid pretty much since Goya painted the royals in 1799. The commission marked the artist's appointment as First Court Painter, the first Spaniard since Velázquez, no less. As well as being large and fragile, the portraits hang in the apartments that lead to the throne room, so continue to play a role in impressing dignitaries whenever they are presented to the King of Spain. Bray is grateful to Gabriele Finaldi, the new director of the National Gallery, formerly the deputy director of Prado in Madrid, for helping to secure the last-minute loans. The British ambassador to Spain also lent a hand, Bray reveals. A large-scale exhibition of Goya’s portraits would have been impossible without ten “exceptional” loans from the Prado, which Bray describes as the “backbone” to the show. Finaldi was instrumental in securing those too.