|Zacarías González Velázquez (Spanish, 1763-1834)
Portrait of a Lady with a Fan (Retrato de dama con abanico), c.1805-10
Oil on canvas
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas, Museum Purchase Thanks to a Gift from Jo Ann Geurin Thetford in Honor of her Sons, Garrett and Wyatt Pettus, MM.2010.03. Photo by Dimitris Skliris
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Zacarías González Velázquez is a key artistic figure in late 18th- and early 19th-century Spain. His career spanned the reign of Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Joseph Bonaparte, and the restoration of Ferdinand VII. His artistic production therefore provides an interesting cross-section of historic events and stylistic changes with each successive reign. Zacarías’s various appointments at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando—first as Deputy Director in 1807, then Director of Painting in 1819, and finally as Director of the Academy in 1828—mark his instrumentality in dictating the aesthetic of painting in Spain for almost a quarter of a century.
Portrait of a Lady with a Fan demonstrates Zacarías’s exceptional technical skills as a painter. Appointed Pintor de Cámara (court painter) by Charles IV in 1802, Zacarías’s technical command is evident in the precise details of the mantilla’s lace and the carefully tousled bangs which frame the woman’s face. This meticulous execution of detail was achieved through Zacarías’s short, calculated brushstrokes. Apart from a few key elements that give visual cues of the sitter’s social status—the mantilla, the cascading curls, the coral earring, and the fan—there is little else in the painting to distract the viewer from the woman’s intense gaze. The economy of detail in Portrait of a Lady with a Fan provides for a psychological engagement between the observed and the observer, calling to mind the Neoclassical portraiture of David.
This painting was created at the height of Zacarías’s career, considered to be the period between 1789 and 1808. Based on the sitter’s dress and hairstyle, which were de rigueur in the first decade of the 19th century, Portrait of a Lady with a Fan can be dated to circa 1805-1810. Portrait of a Lady with a Fan is the first work to enter the Meadows collection by Zacarías, whose art is very rarely found outside of Spain. This portrait provides an interesting foil to works in the Meadows collection by Goya and López, both of whom shared the title of First Court Painter.
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