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Alfonso XII
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
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Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de

Rome (Italy), 1815 - Madrid (Spain), 1894

Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de See author's file

Alfonso XII

1886. Oil on canvas.
On display elsewhere

This is a posthumous portrait of the monarch. He appears standing, in full-length, and dressed in a simple captain-general’s uniform, upon which he bears the grand laureate cross and sash of the military order of San Fernando (Saint Ferdinand), as well as the decorations of the Golden Fleece hanging from his collar and a cummerbund and a sabre girdle around his waist. He poses inside a palatial salon, on a rich carpet, resting his hand on one of the splendid hard-stone tables kept in the Museo del Prado, on which we see the command baton and the feathered helmet of his uniform. In the shadows of the sumptuous architecture in the background, there is a niche with a statue of a medieval monarch – probably King Alfonso X the Wise, the immediate nominal predecessor of the monarch – and a medallion with the effigy of King Charles V.

Federico de Madrazo had already painted portraits of Alfonso XII on several occasions throughout the king’s lifetime, according to the records in his inventory. Nevertheless, this portrait was commissioned from the painter in 1886, the year following the king’s death. It was intended for the Ministry of Public Works, which back then was home to the Contemporary Section of the Museo del Prado. It was immediately transferred to the Museum, probably with the purpose of being integrated within the Chronological Series of the Kings of Spain, a project initiated by José de Madrazo.

The notes concerning this portrait recorded by Federico de Madrazo in his diary particularly elucidate his working method and the special care he took in executing the commission. The artist also communicates the assiduous collaboration of his son Ricardo on the painting’s background, the use of a model for the king’s hands and the immediate fame the portrait attained as soon as it was painted. Consequently, the painter’s studio turned into a true pilgrimage site where relevant figures from Madrid society and many friends of the painter passed by to contemplate it. The painting was instantly disseminated through the photograph taken by Laurent’s son-in-law.

Despite being a posthumous portrait (done from a photograph, logically), it is probably the best official painted effigy of this monarch, who was not very fortunate with the artists who portrayed him, generally at a great distance from this canvas. Although conceived as an official portrait, the military costume worn by the king is extremely sober. Madrazo paid particular attention on this occasion to the scenography in which the portrait is set, which – as can be understood from his diary – was reasonably arduous for the painter, who needed many long sessions until he was entirely satisfied with it. It is thus developed with a keen sense of depth that envelops the figure of the monarch in a quiet and tranquil atmosphere, with an almost theatrical conception of monumental space. It is rooted in Baroque portraiture and employs the ornamental elements that the artist had more readily available, such as the table of hard stones, which was then in the Prado – of which Madrazo was Director – and for which he executed at least four pencil studies of the gilded lions on the base.

Díez, José Luis, Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz (1815-1894), Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 1994, p.352-354 nº89; 458-459 nº378


Technical data

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Inventory number
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Alfonso XII
Height: 248 cm; Width: 160 cm
Museo del Prado, 1886–1896; Museo de Arte Moderno, 1896; Museo del Prado, 1901–1904; Museo de Arte Moderno, 1904–1971

Bibliography +

Díez, José Luis, Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz (1815-1894), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 1994, pp. 352-354 nº89; 458-459 nº378.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Díez, José Luis, Canovas y la Restauracion, Ministerio de Educacion y Cultura, Madrid, 1997, pp. 220 nº138.

Huellas : Catedral de Murcia, exposición 2002, Caja de Ahorros de Murcia, Valencia, 2002, pp. 180.

Díez, J.L. (dir.), Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado. Catálogo general, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 373.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1900. Núm. 426.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LÁMINAS. / Madrazo y Kuntz (D. Federico) [...] 426.- Retrato de D. Alfonso XII. / Alto 2'48 metros. Ancho 1'60 metros.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1889. Núm. 2166 k.

Inv. General del Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899-1902. Núm. 45.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899. Núm. 235.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LAMINAS. / MADRAZO Y KUNTZ (D. Federico de) [...] 235.- Retrato de D. Alfonso XII. / Alto 2'48 metros. Ancho 1'60 metros.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 14-M.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 725.
Excmo. Sr. D. Federico de Madrazo / 725. Un retrato de S.M. el rey D. Alfonso XII (q.e.g.e.) / Adquirido en 7500 pesetas / Alto 2,43 anº 1,60 / Orden fecha 7 de octubre de 1886.

Inscriptions +

F. de Mo
Signed. Front, lower left area

T. 725
Inscribed in blue. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

22.01.2002 - 25.07.2002

Cánovas y la restauración
17.12.1997 - 05.02.1998

Location +

Madrid - Palacio Real (Deposit)

Displayed objects +

Sabre / Saber

Military Orders: Gran cruz laureada y banda de la orden militar de San Fernando

Golden Fleece

Baton, Command

Baton, Captain General's

Sculpture: Escultura de Alfonso X

Update date: 14-01-2023 | Registry created on 15-12-2015

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