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López Portaña, Vicente

Valencia, 19.9.1772 - Madrid, 22.7.1850

After studying at the Academy of San Carlos in Valencia, he rapidly developed a successful career, thanks to his extraordinary artistic gift for drawing and color. After winning that academy’s general competition in 1789, he was awarded a stipend that allowed him to spend three years in Madrid.
There, he continued his studies, taking first prize at the Academy of San Fernando in 1790 with his painting The Catholic Kings Receiving an Emissary from the King of Fez (Madrid, Academy of San Fernando). During that period, his contact with the great late-baroque court painters, especially Mariano Salvador Maella (1739-1819), informed his conception of major decorative compositions, with careful, precise and analytical drawing as the major tool of his trade. Maella facilitated his access to the Royal Seats, where he admiringly studied the lavish and decorative late-baroque Italian works of Luca Giordano and Corrado Giaquinto that decisively influenced him throughout his career.
In 1792, Vicente López returned to Valencia, where his prestige rapidly led to important commissions, mostly decorative or religious, that established him as a the leading Valencian painter of his time. As such, in 1802 he accepted a commission to paint the large portrait Charles IV and his Family, Celebrated by the University of Valencia (Museo del Prado P02815). This work’s ardently baroque presentation was so well received that the king appointed him honorary chamber painter in December of that same year.
During the French occupation, as Valencia’s leading painter, López found himself forced to make several portraits for the commander of Napoleon’s troops, Marshal Louis Suchet. But after Ferdinand VII returned to Spain, he made various likenesses of the monarch that allowed him to renew his contact with the Crown. These include the outstanding Ferdinand VII Wearing the Habit of the Order of Charles III (Valencia, City Hall). Dissatisfied with his salaried palace portrait painters, the king wrote an order in his own hand on July 26, 1814: “send for López, the painter.” And on March 1, 1815, he appointed him first chamber painter, thus replacing Maella, who had been so helpful to López in his youth but was now accused of serving the intruder, Joseph Bonaparte.
During his many years at court, he painted outstanding portraits of Ferdinand VII’s successive wives—especially Marie Christine of Bourbon, Queen of Spain (P00865)—although he reached his zenith as royal portrait painter with the spectacular Ferdinand VII Wearing the Habit of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Rome, Spanish Embassy to the Vatican). López also carried out major decorative commissions at the Royal Palace, including the clearly symbolic frescoes, Allegory of the Founding of the Order of Charles III and Sovereign Authority in the Exercise of its Faculties. Earlier, in 1818, he made a large tempera painting for the ceiling of the main hall at the Queen’s Casino. This work, Allegory of the Donation of the Casino to Queen Elizabeth of Braganza by the Municipal Government of Madrid (Prado, P04094), drew on decorative models by Corrado Giaquinto, whom he had so admired as a youth.
López’s arrival in Madrid under the protection of Ferdinand VII determined his post in some institutions directly linked to the Crown. In 1814 he was appointed honorary member of the Royal Academy of San Fernando and just two years later he became its Director of painting. Similarly, his functional link to the Royal Museum of Paintings was established in 1823 when he was appointed Artistic Director. Before that, he had already participated in the selection of works from the royal collections that were used to constitute it.
While López maintained his leading position at court during the regencies that followed the monarch’s death, he was displaced by the Madrazos when Elizabeth II took the throne. Towards the end of his career, however, he proved capable of adapting his academic language to Romantic fashions, especially in portraits such as the splendid Maria Francisca de la Gándara, Countess Widow of Calderón (P07041) (G. Navarro, C. in: El Siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 475-476).

His portrait by his son, Bernardo López Piquer, is catalogued at the Museo del Prado as P07742.

Artworks (46)

La adoración de la Sagrada Forma
Oil on canvas mounted on panel, Ca. 1792
López Portaña, Vicente (Copy after Coello, Claudio)
Fray Tomás Gascó
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1794
López Portaña, Vicente
La huida a Egipto
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1795
López Portaña, Vicente
María Pilar de la Cerda y Marín de Resende, Duchess of Nájera
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1795
López Portaña, Vicente
Saint Joseph's Dream
Oil on paper attached to cardboard, 1791 - 1792
López Portaña, Vicente
The Liberation of Saint Peter
Oil on paper attached to cardboard, 1791 - 1792
López Portaña, Vicente
El Buen Pastor
Oil on panel, Ca. 1800
López Portaña, Vicente
Charles IV and his Family honoured by the University of Valencia
Oil on canvas, 1802
López Portaña, Vicente
Joseph’s Dream
Oil on canvas, 1805
López Portaña, Vicente

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