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Paret y Alcázar, Luis
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Paret y Alcázar, Luis

Madrid (Spain), 1746 - Madrid (Spain), 1799

Paret y Alcázar, Luis See author's file


1767. Oil on panel.
Room 093

This painting, prepared by Paret in an excellent drawing (British Museum in London, inv. 1890,1209.50) and titled Baile in máscara (The Masked Ball), on a cartouche as a kind of label, is one of the earliest known works by the artist. It demonstrates great technical and compositional skill in arranging a subtly illuminated interior filled with a multitude of figures. The varied dress, poses and expressions of these figures are conveyed with surprising clarity despite their tiny size and, in the case of those in the background, their sketched nature. By indicating in his elegantly brushed signature his age of only 20 years old on 11 February 1766, there is no doubt that the artist wished to emphasise his talent, which was ahead of his time, but also that he had painted one of the first masked balls allowed in Madrid. It occurred during the Carnival of 1767 and at the initiative of the Count of Aranda, president of the Council of Castile, who was concerned with the modernisation of public events. This type of ball followed the French tradition that had begun at the Paris Opera in 1716 with the aim to relax, along with other measures, the rules of strict etiquette that had prevailed in Versailles until the death of Louis XIV, King of France. Thus, he aimed to please the courtiers who had moved to that city. In Spain, on the other hand, Philip V, King of Spain, did not allow them. In 1767, the first of only seven years in which this evening entertainment was allowed, the ball was held exclusively at the Teatro del Príncipe (Prince’s Theatre), with limited capacity and a single ticket price. From 1768 onwards, they were also held in the courtyard of the Caños del Peral Theatre and became popular in Seville, Barcelona and Valencia.

On 4 January 1767, by government decree, a detailed regulation on masquerade balls was published to guarantee ‘the peace, decorum and prudence which shall be exercised by those who take pleasure in attending; since the effect of the mask makes all those who wear it equal, trusting that they are all well-meaning people, respectful of the public, civilly educated, and adherent to the rules of good social behaviour’. All the costumes had to be made for that purpose. Furthermore, fabrics had to be of good quality to avoid any indecency, although without being precious or adorned with delicate ornaments like muslin or flowers, jewels or pearls, ‘even if they are false…as wearing a mask is a symbol of equality among attendees, there is no need to make outstanding distinctions, which some people may have been determined to do without being appropriate’. ‘The main amusement in wearing the mask consists in the great attendance, in the variety of costumes, in their convenient decency, in talking, dancing and entertaining themselves with the variety of objects depicted’. The ‘costumes of Hungarian, Armenian, sailor, mule driver and English costumes’, as well as ‘shoes and gloves for masks’ were always sold or lent ‘with the permission of someone from a higher rank or position’, and the costumes of judges, ecclesiastics or religious people were forbidden.

Several of these costumes were worn by those attending the ball that Paret painted. Furthermore, he added some guests wearing Spanish regional costumes and others in old-fashioned ones. He also included masks intended for Turkish, Italian and commedia dell’arte costumes, as well as that of a Roman soldier. The costumed figures are spread out in the stalls of the theatre. This interior is represented in its full width and height, with three floors of box seats in which other costumed characters entertain themselves or observe the variety of masks on the stage. Their costumes are subtly glimmering through the golden grilles. Candlelight dimly lights their faces and illuminates the backgrounds of the boxes, which are tinged with light layers of bluish and greyish colours.

Paret undoubtedly studied the warm effect of the theatrical lighting from life. Nevertheless, as Alejandro Martínez (2018) has observed, the overall composition may have been inspired by French prints of similar subjects. In the centre of the scene, a woman is depicted dancing to a string orchestra. She is wearing an ostentatious pannier hoop skirt in the 17th-century Spanish tradition. This is an extravagant costume that was strictly forbidden in the regulations of 1767 ‘because of the embarrassment they cause on such occasions’. She dances with a young man in a 16th-century Spanish courtly cape while listening to a ‘director’ – the person in charge of overseeing the dance – distinguished by a ribboned cane. He appears to politely explain the conditions of attendance. Paret masterfully depicts the reactions of the figures who await the resolution of the scandalous situation with interest and mischievous glee. Among these, there is a dandy and an Oriental figure. In the foreground, a hunchbacked Pulcinella from the commedia dell’arte is depicted. There is also a minuet dancer in yellow looking out of the corner of her eye at the watchman, who is reprimanding an attendee. Another character who should not have been admitted to the ball is the boy with a dog. He is situated on the left and, in fact, near him is a ribboned cane indicating the presence of another watchman. Next to him, the excellent, black-cloaked figure of Il Dottore (The Doctor) from the commedia dell’arte is represented. Further on in the painting, a conflict arises between a mule driver and a Pagliacchio in white, which may have been triggered by the woman between them. At the same time, a Mallorca-born sailor, in his striped suit and Phrygian cap, tries to calm them down. In addition, a woman appears in a beautiful blue polonaise dress adorned with flowers – another garment that was not permitted – and that has aroused the interest of a man armed with an iron rod, also forbidden. This rod is pointing at a jealous, sad woman and a man who seems surprised to see the lady in blue, as she is probably his wife.

On the right-hand side of the scene, a Harlequin courts another lady. He is evidently attracted by the gold watch resting on her lap. This was another accessory frowned upon by the authorities. Further to the right, near the edge of the painting, a young woman holds a mask in her left hand as well as a spinning wheel and a ball of yarn in her right. At the same time, three spindles hang from her waist as symbols of female honesty. This is a virtue in which the man next to her does not seem to believe, as evidenced by the doubt on his face. As a figure of different and simultaneous connotations in paintings such as Antoine Watteau’s Evening Landscape with Spinner from around 1715 (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam), this spinner sums up the nature of the masquerade ball. In the absence of official regulations, the masquerade ball would have allowed its attendees to become attractive members of the higher social classes and indulge in deceitful courtship and adultery. Some of the masked figures direct their intelligent gaze at the viewer and convey what the artist also wished to depict: the chasm between the vision of enlightened ideas and the reality of the human condition.

Paret made a detailed preparatory drawing, even with the same width as the painting – although not as high, since it does not depict the border with the title. However, the Museo del Prado’s recent study of the painting using infrared reflectography analysed by Mark McDonald has revealed that the artist had in fact executed a new black pencil drawing on the ochre-coloured preparatory layer. This drawing can be discerned in many areas in which he modified the perspective and architectural elements of the first one. He moved the pillar with the music box further to the right and changed its point of view from the right to the left. He lowered the pillar capital to the height of the base of the third floor of the boxes and also placed the first floor on a lower position. He also reduced the number of boxes from ten to nine on each floor and eliminated the last row of chandeliers. These two modifications create the effect that the space is less wide and elevated than in the preparatory drawing, as well as that the flow of people is greater and more crowded. On the other hand, he arranged in a clearer manner the various groups of figures in the foreground, most of which had already been studied in the drawing. He also modified and specified the poses of several of them.

As soon as Aranda was replaced by Bishop Manuel Ventura Figueroa in 1773, the masquerade balls were banned. Nevertheless, in 1778, Juan Antonio Salvador Carmona (1740–1805) engraved Paret’s painting for a print with more elaborate figures and decorated backgrounds. Its sale was announced in the Madrid Gazette on 28 July of that year. The title was changed to Variety of Spanish and Foreign Costumes at a Ball, which revealed the work’s true subject. Also evident was the name of the composition’s author, who was then serving his sentence in Puerto Rico. After Paret’s death, probably after the 1802 fire in the theatre, which took five years to rebuild, the copperplate (Calcografía Nacional in Madrid) was retouched; the plain floor was replaced by a chequered one and the title was changed to First Masquerade Ball Held at the Coliseo del Príncipe. Furthermore, the incorrect date ‘in 1771’ was subsequently added. The absence of Paret’s name on the prints of that condition also led to erroneous attributions of the composition, which was even attributed to Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779) until the signed painting was discovered in 1944. According to McDonald, Carmona apparently had transferred some of the figures from Paret’s preparatory drawing to his own drawing for the print. The latter, in turn, faithfully copied the painting, which could indicate that this print and Paret’s drawing were in the same collection.

Maurer, Gudrun, 'Luis Paret y Alcázar. Baile en máscara' En:. Paret, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2022, p.80-84 nº 7


Technical data

Related artworks

Baile en máscara
Etching, Burin on continuous paper, 1778
Salvador Carmona, Juan Antonio
Inventory number
Paret y Alcázar, Luis
Height: 40 cm; Width: 51 cm
Marquess of Salamanca; acquired from Miguel Gil Delgado with funds from the bequest of the Count of Cartagena, 1944

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón F.J, Pintores de los Borbones, Boletin de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones, 24, 1916, pp. 143.

Caturla, Maria Luisa, 'Paret, de Goya coetáneo y dispar' En: Goya (cinco estudios), Institución Fernando el Católico, Zaragoza, 1949, pp. 27-41 [31-32].

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, Luis Paret y Alcázar, Boletín Sociedad Española de Excursiones, LVI, 1952, pp. 87-153 [138].

Delgado, O., Paret y Alcázar, Universidad de Puerto Rico. Instituto Diego Velázquez, C.S.I.C., 1957, pp. 104-109, 240 nº 10.

Goya and his times: Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, 1963-4:, Royal Academy of Arts in London, Londres, 1963, pp. 15.

Ressort, C., Eugenio Lucas et les Satellites de Goya, Musee du Louvre, París, 1972.

Puente, Joaquín de la, Del Greco a Goya, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1978.

Prinz Von Hohenzollern, J.G., Von Greco Bis Goya. Vier Jahrhunderte Spanische Malerei, Haus Der Kunst, Munich, 1982, pp. 228.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 491-492.

Domínguez Díez, Rosalía; Gallego García, Ángela, La elegancia y el desgarro en el teatro madrileño del siglo XVIII, Villa de Madrid, 24, 1986, pp. 7.

Starobinski, Jean, L'Invention de la Liberte. 1700-1789, FlammarionSkira, Ginebra, 1987, pp. 94.

Iglesias, María del Carmen, Carlos III y la ilustración: 1788-1988, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1988, pp. 207.

Symmons, Sarah, Goya. In Pursuit of Patronage, Gordon Fraser, Londres, 1988, pp. 84.

Robertson, Ian, Los Curiosos Impertinentes. Viajeros Ingleses por España Des, Serbal.C.S.I.C., Madrid, 1988, pp. 65.

Tomlinson, Janis, Goya in the Twilight of Enlightenment, Yale University Press, New Haven.Londres, 1992, pp. 183/ lám.69.

Quesada, Luis, Luz y lumbre en la pintura española, Fundación Sevillana de Electricidad, Sevilla, 1992, pp. 87/ lám.94.

Buendía, José Rogelio, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Lunwerg Editores, Barcelona, 1994, pp. 171.

Morales y Marín, José Luis, Pintura en España: 1750-1808, Cátedra, Madrid, 1994, pp. 206/ lám.116.

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

Benito Olmos, Aurora, Arte y Musica en el Museo del Prado, Fundacion ArgentariaVisor, Madrid, 1997, pp. 206.

Morales y Marín, José Luis, Luis Paret, vida y obra, Aneto Publicaciones, Zaragoza, 1997, pp. 110-112 nº9..

Luna, J.J, 'Baile en máscara' En:, El Conde de Aranda, Gobierno de Aragon, Zaragoza, 1998, pp. 350-351 nº 313.

Kuster, Ulf, Theatrum Mundi : Die Welt Als Bühne, Edition Minerva, Múnich, 2002, pp. 118 nº 72.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La colección de pintura española en el Museo del Prado, Edilupa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 183.

Molina, Alvaro, Vestir la identidad, construir la apariencia: la cuestión del traje en la España del Siglo XVIII, Ayuntamiento de Madrid, Madrid, 2004, pp. 92.

Vidal Rivas, Julián, Los fuegos en las luces, culturas visuales en la sociabilidad ilustrada, Goya, En-Mz, 2012, pp. 72.

Reuter, A, 'Luis Paret y Alcázar'. En:, Goya y el Infante Don Luis: el exilio y el reino : arte y ciencia en la época de la Ilustración española, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 2012, pp. 149-169 [149, n. 33].

El trazo español en el British Museum. Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. [o.r] 192-195 n 55.

Maurer, G., Goya: lo bello y lo recóndito. En: La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 338.

Mena Marqués, M.; Albarrán, V., La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, folleto, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 46 n.205.

Martínez, Alejandro, 'Usos e impacto de la indumentaria teatral a través de la estampa. la Colección de trages españoles del Luis Paret y Alcázar' En:, Goya y su contexto. Actas del seminario internacional celebrado en la Institución Fernando el Católico (Zaragoza, del 27 al 29 de octubre de 2011), Zaragoza, 2013, pp. 142.

Martínez, Alejandro, El pincel y la máscara. Luis Paret en la encrucijada, ARS Magazine. Revista de Arte y Coleccionismo, 2, 2014, pp. 94-109 [102].

Gómez Castellano, Irene, Misterios en la trastienda.Luis Parte. la Tienda del anticuario y el debate en torno a los bailes de máscaras durante el reinado de Carlos III, Goya: Revista de Arte, 352 (Julio-Septiembre), 2015, pp. 228-243 [228,234].

Zanardi, Tara, Framing Majismo: art and royal identity in eighteenth century Spain, The Pennsylvania State University Press,, 2016, pp. 153.

Martínez Pérez, Alejandro, Dibujos de Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-1799). Catálogo razonado., Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica,, Madrid, 2018, pp. [o.r] 94-95.

ALba, L. García Maíquez, J. Gayo, M.D, Jover de Celis, M. Merino Gorospe, J.L, 'Aportaciones al estudio técnico de las obras de Paret' En:, Paret, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2022, pp. 47-63 [48,51].

Maurer, Gudrun, 'Luis Paret y Alcázar. Baile en máscara' En:, Paret, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2022, pp. 80-84 nº 7.

Maurer, Gudrun, 'Paret, pintor de singular ingenio' En:, Paret, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2022, pp. 15-45 [22,39].

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1741.
1741. / Autor, Luis de Paret / Un baile en el Teatro del Príncipe / Lienzo 50 X 39 CMS. / Nº Catálogo 2875 / Adquirido por el Patronato a D. Miguel Gil Delgado en 25.000 pts. el 6-XI-944

Inscriptions +

Ludovs. Paret / inv. et pinx.t aetatis / suae XX annos
Signed and dated. Front, lower right corner

Front, lower central area

... 42 ?
Inscribed in green. Back, upper right corner

152. / Stiftung Haus der Kunst München / 22. Mai – 21. Septembre 2003 / Luis Paret y Alcazar / Masked Ball / oil on canvas / Museo Nacional del Prado Madrid
Handwritten label. Back, Upper central area

Handwritten label. Front, upper central area

hasenkamp / Ausstellung / […] / Titel / Baile de máscaras / GröBe/Material / 69 / Künstler/Leihgeber / Paret / Museum Prado Madrid
Handwritten label. Back, upper right corner

ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS, LONDON, W. 1 / EXHIBITION OF GOYA AND HIS TIMES, 1963-64 / Artist Pret / Title Baile en mascara Serial N 239 / Owner Museo del Prado, Madrid / This label to be affix […] back of the frame (not the canvas) / of the picture. Please […]
Handwritten label. Back, upper left corner

15 [invertido]
Inscribed with red pencil. Back, central area

15 [invertido]
Inscribed with red pencil. Back, Upper left area

Macarron S.A. .....

No 2875
Inscribed in black. Back, Upper left area

Exhibitions +

COPIA DE - Paret
24.05.2022 - 21.08.2022

24.05.2022 - 21.08.2022

Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny
21.05.2013 - 10.11.2013

Goya y el Infante Don Luis: el exilio y el reino
22.10.2012 - 24.02.2013

Nuestros breves ocios. De Isidoro Máiquez a Julián Romea
19.10.2009 - 10.01.2010

Theatrum Mundi - All the World's a Stage
24.05.2003 - 21.09.2003

El Conde de Aranda
23.09.1998 - 10.01.1999

Location +

Room 093 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Dance: Varias parejas de danzantes en el escenario. De izquierda a derecha:
Primera pareja de frente: ella vestida de azul y él de blanco con sombrero negro, ambos levantando la pierna derecha al tiempo, son observados por una mujer que está a su derecha. Segunda pareja en el centro, bajo el palco de los músicos. Ambos elegantemente vestidos, ella de azul y dorado, con antifaz negro y él con capa azul. Ambos están haciendo una reverencia. Tercera pareja, a la derecha del palco de los músicos. Pareja vestida a la moda antigua española. Parecen avanzar de frente, el con el pie izquierdo levantado (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, UCM).

Violin: En el cuadro se representan al menos cuatro violinistas (puede que algún viola entre ellos). Los instrumentos se han representado esbozados. Los músicos están tocando y tienen los "papeles" ante sí, sobre la barandilla del balcón. Como elemento distintivo, se aprecia la posición en que se tañe el instrumento, inclinada hacia el pecho, propia de la época, mientras que la moderna es casi paralela al hombro. El violín es el instrumento soprano de la familia de los Violones y aparece representado por primera vez en iconografía de comienzos del s. XVI en Ferrara (Italia). En los siglos XVII y XVIII se establece el modelo del violín moderno de la mano de los grandes luthiers italianos (escuelas de Brescia y Cremona). Se interpretaba colocándolo bajo la barbilla como único punto de apoyo, como aparece en la representación (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, UCM).

Horn, French: El músico que está más a la izquierda en el balcón (en el centro de la composición), parece que toca una trompa. Se trata de un instrumento moderno en los conjuntos instrumentales del siglo XVIII. No es posible describir el instrumento de la pintura, ya que, al igual que los anteriores, no ha sido descrito en detalle. Utilizadas para transmitir información y señales, son los instrumentos favoritos para las cacerías. De estas trompas derivan en el siglo XVIII las de orquesta. En el s. XIX se le añaden válvulas para ampliar sus posibilidades acústicas (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, UCM).

Orchestra / Band: En el balcón central del teatro se ha representado la orquesta de cámara que anima el baile. Aunque no están pintados en detalle, se ven al menos cuatro violinistas (puede que haya alguna viola entre ellos) cercanos a la barandilla, un contrabajo a la izquierda, además de una trompa también a la izquierda y otros dos instrumentistas de viento a la derecha, quizás oboes (la pincelada no permite observar detalles). No se describen en ese catálogo los dos aerófonos, quizás oboes, ni el contrabajo, que apenas se distinguen en el cuadro. El término “orquesta”, en desarrollo en toda Europa a mediados del siglo XVIII, aparece en este caso relacionado con los bailes de carnaval en varios impresos de la Biblioteca Nacional donde se describen las contradanzas que se bailaron en estas fiestas. Por ejemplo en los bailes de carnaval de 1768 en Barcelona hubo dos orquestas, la primera formada por violines, “baxos”, clarines y “obueses”, y la segunda por violines, “baxos”, trompas y “obueces” (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, UCM).


Update date: 24-11-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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