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The Countess-Duchess of Benavente (?) accompanied by Mercedes de Rojas y Tello, Future Marchioness of Villanueva de Duero, and her Daughter, María Asunción
Esteve, Agustín
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Esteve, Agustín

Valencia (Spain), 1753 - Valencia (Spain), 1820

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The Countess-Duchess of Benavente (?) accompanied by Mercedes de Rojas y Tello, Future Marchioness of Villanueva de Duero, and her Daughter, María Asunción

Ca. 1797. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

The provenance of this canvas (Bornos Collection) and the recent appearance on the antiques market of a full-length portrait of Valentín Bellvís de Moncada in sentry uniform (Fernando Durán, 26/07/2017, misidentified as the 4th Duke of Osuna), also by Esteve and from the same collection, allows for the identification of the young woman portrayed standing as Mercedes de Rojas y Tello, Countess of Villariezo and the future Marchioness of Villanueva de Duero, with her daughter, María Asunción. Mercedes de Rojas y Tello was born in 1774 and married Valentín Bellvís on 15 August 1795. Her appearance shares similarities with that shown in a miniature dated 1819 by José Alonso del Rivero Sacades (Museo del Prado, O3386). Her daughter María Asunción, born on 4 July 1796, got married for the first time to José Ramírez de Haro, 10th Count of Bornos, in 1814. Four full-length portraits of Agustín Esteve are mentioned in her will (Nobility Records, BORNOS, C.360, D.1).

The possible ages of Mercedes and María Asunción led this portrait to be dated around the middle of the year 1797, a time frame that coincides with the fashion trend for the white muslin shirts they are wearing. Nevertheless, technical studies executed on the painting reveal that the canvas was enlarged when these two figures had already been painted. A part of the canvas was added to the left side to include the seated figure, whereas the right side was cut slightly to centre the composition. Another addition was the sash of the Royal Order of the Ladies of Queen Maria Luisa, which she received in 1802, a date which helps situate the time of the portrait’s modification.

The seated lady has traditionally been identified as the Countess-Duchess of Benavente, María Josefa de la Soledad Alonso-Pimentel. However, no special link between her and Mercedes de Rojas y Tello has been documented to justify her inclusion in an evidently intimate portrait, as revealed by the presence of the child’s cradle. It is therefore possible that, despite the similarity, this figure does not depict the Duchess of Osuna, whose age at that time would not have been as advanced as that shown in the portrait. It is probable that it is Mercedes’s mother, in other words, María Asunción’s grandmother, Ms Eusebia Soterraña Tello y Riaño, Lady of the Royal Order of María Luisa from 1794, who died in 1798. The proximity of the date of death to the completion of such a family-orientated portrait would motivate Mercedes to ask Esteve to modify the canvas to include the figure of her mother and her entry into the aforementioned Order (Albarrán, V. in: ‘Agustín Esteve y Marqués’, Biographical Dictionary: Royal History Academy, online edition).

Technical data

Inventory number
P008016
Author
Esteve, Agustín
Title
The Countess-Duchess of Benavente (?) accompanied by Mercedes de Rojas y Tello, Future Marchioness of Villanueva de Duero, and her Daughter, María Asunción
Date
Ca. 1797
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
Height: 198.5 cm; Width: 145.5 cm
Provenance
Madrid, Counts of Bornos Collection; bestowed by its owners at the Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia, 2005-2008

Bibliography +

Ezquerra del Bayo, Joaquin, Retratos de Mujeres Españolas del Siglo XIX, Imp.De Julio Cosano, Madrid, 1924.

Campomanes y Su Tiempo, Fundacion Santander Central Hispa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 272-275.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Memoria de Actividades 2008, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 24-26.

Albarrán, Virginia, 'El desafío del blanco: Goya y Esteve, retratistas de la casa de Osuna'. En:, El desafío del blanco: Goya y Esteve, retratistas de la casa de Osuna. A propósito de la donación Alzaga, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 19 f.13 nt.99.

Albarrán, Virginia, 'Un estudio crítico del pintor Agustín Esteve (1753 post. 1820). Estado de la cuestión' En:, Sobre la España en el largo siglo XVIII. Congreso Internacional junio 2021, 2021, pp. 323-335 [332-333].

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2787.

Exhibitions +

El desafío del blanco: Goya y Esteve, retratistas de la casa de Osuna. A propósito de la donación Alzaga
Madrid
20.06.2017 - 01.10.2017

The challenge of white. Goya and Esteve, portraitists to the Osuna family
Madrid
20.06.2017 - 01.10.2017

Displayed objects +

Insignia / Decoration: Orden de Damas Nobles de la Reina María Luisa

Update date: 05-12-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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