Gathering in a Park
Lupa
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The Spanish Habsburg Charles II and his queen, Mariana of Neuburg, fl ank the entrance to the fi rst gallery of 18th-century painting, in which visitors are received by the monarchs of the Bourbon dynasty that came to power in Spain in 1700. The Spanish and Italian artists previously summoned to work at the court were now replaced by French painters who introduced modes and formats appropriate to the new requirements of their patrons. Jean Ranc’s preparatory sketch for The Family of Philip V, which remained unfi nished and was lost in the fi re at the Alcázar in 1734, deploys the genre of family portrait that culminated in Goya’s The Family of Charles IV (1800). Goya depicts the royal family in a less formal palace interior in which the monarchs, the heir to the throne and the playful younger children convey an unprecedented normality and approachability, accompanied by an attractive maid who serves tea in the manner of a fashionable “conversation piece”. Two typically intimate and subtle works by Watteau were to be found in 1746 in Philip V’s beloved palace of La Granja. One of them, Fête galante, can be read as an idealised image of the outdoor events held in the beautiful gardens of this royal residence. Similarly, the Neo-classical Mengs’s portrait of María Luisa de Parma emphasises her amiable character and smiling, youthful beauty while the historic palace-monastery of El Escorial, modernised by the Bourbons, glints in the sunlight in Houasse’s depiction. In the fi nal, turbulent decade of the century Pillement’s Shipwreck is an evocation of Nature, seen for the fi rst time as sublime and grandiose with human beings as its fragile playthings.

 
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