María Cristina de Borbon, Queen of Spain1830. Oil on canvas, 96 x 74 cm.
This wedding portrait by Vicente López depicts Ferdinand VII’s fourth and final wife, his niece Maria Cristina. All three of his previous spouses, María Antonia of Bourbon (1784-1806), María Isabel of Braganza (1797-1818) and María Josefa Amalia of Saxony (1805-1829), had died without offspring.
The more than half-length likeness shows her at the age of twenty-four in a spectacular blue dress with embroidered silver flowers and bees. Her hairdo a las tres potencias -a curl on each side and a third hanging over the forehead- is adorned with a superb headdress with diamonds in the form of flowers and feathers and real bird-of-paradise feathers, as well as a white lace veil that drapes over her left shoulder. Her arms are covered by long gloves and her hands are crossed. In the left, she clasps a closed fan that is also set with precious stones.
A splendid diamond brooch in the form of a flower basket is pinned to her collar, along with other diamonds, earrings and a magnificent belt around her waist. A sash of the Order of María Luisa crosses her bosom and the scallop of the Order of the Eagle and the Star of Isabel Teresa of Austria are affixed to her left shoulder. Painted for her husband and uncle, this nuptial likeness is undoubtedly the most sumptuous of any portrait by Vicente López as well as an eloquent expression of the ostentatious character of this young queen, who was passionate about jewels and other luxurious and eye-catching adornments on her clothing and accessories. It is also a superb example of this Valencian master’s astonishing virtuosity and exceptional technical gifts, which he maintained through his final years and which were responsible for his extraordinary fame and reputation as first chamber painter at the court of King Ferdinand VII.
Vicente López painted this spectacular portrait a few months after the royal wedding while the queen was sojourning at the Royal Seat of Aranjuez. It was intended to be paired with another of King Ferdinand VII in Civilian Dress (Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, Royal Palace), who always kept it in his office (Text drawn from Díez, J. L.: El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 128-130).