A Masked Ball at the Coliseo del Príncipe, Luis Paret y Alcázar. Pen and grey ink and grey wash over black chalk, 304 x 492 mm, c. 1767 © The Trustees of the British Museum 1890,1209.50

The French artists sent for to Madrid by the new Bourbon dynasty had a considerable part in shaping taste during the first half of the 1700s. However, artistic alliances began to be dissolved towards the middle of the century owing to the greater influence of their Italian counterparts and of the Bohemian painter Anton Raphael Mengs.

The event that had the most profound consequences for artistic practice and the professional recognition of the artists working in Spain was the founding of the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid in 1744 where drawing was a fundamental aspect of teaching. The dissemination of academic studies and the wish to bring art up to the standard of other European countries ensured drawing a solid position. By the late 1700s Spanish masters had a thorough knowledge of the latest artistic trends.

Although the drawings made in Madrid in the 1700s were chiefly academic studies or preparatory sketches for paintings or frescoes, this was not their only use. Other varieties were architectural drawings and those preparatory for prints.

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