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Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de

Rome (Italy), 9.2.1815 - Madrid (Spain), 10.6.1894

The son of influential neoclassical painter José de Madrazo, Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz was born in Rome, where his father was employed by Charles IV during that monarch’s exile. Federico was baptized at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican with Frederic of Saxony as his godfather. In 1819, the family moved to Madrid, where his father became chamber painter to Ferdinand VII. Federico studied at the Academy of San Fernando and was named honorary academician in 1831 at the age of sixteen. That was the beginning of a premature courtly career that began with propaganda paintings for Queen Marie Christine. Of these, The Illness of Ferdinand VII (Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional) was especially interesting in its iconography and symbolism, and it earned him considerable fame and renown from a very young age.
Federico’s definitive training as an absolutely cosmopolitan painter took place in the two leading European art capitals of that time as he followed his father’s footsteps. In 1833, he traveled to Paris, where he later lived between 1837 and 1839. During those years, he was in contact with Ingres (1780-1867) and other successful French painters, thanks to his father. He participated in the Salons and was commissioned to make a history painting—Godfrey of Bouillon Proclaimed King of Jerusalem—for Versailles Palace’s Galerie des Batailles. In fact, he made several history paintings while in Paris, including El Gran Capitán Reconnoiters the Battlefield at Ceriñola (P07806). These works merge the influence of French academicism with a search for Spanish formal referents that would be pleasing to the artistic tastes of Parisian society under King Louis-Philippe I (1773-1850). Shortly before leaving Paris he began work on one of the most important compositions of his career: The Two Maries at the Tomb (Seville, Real Alcázares). Federico settled in Rome with the intention of finishing that work, and there he completed his artistic training, adopting some elements of the Nazarine purism with which he had direct contact. This not only affected his art, but also his later approach to artistic education.
In 1842, Madrazo returned to Madrid, where he rapidly consolidated his court career as a royal portrait painter. His father’s contacts again proved fundamental in obtaining the post of chamber painter. In 1844, he painted the large portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (Madrid, Academy of San Fernando) that definitively established him as the Crown’s official portrait painter. Thanks to his indisputable prominence as the queen’s portrait painter, Federico was much in demand among Madrid’s bourgeoisie and aristocracy. He rapidly invented his own original models for portraiture, and these were widely adopted by the mid-19th-century Spanish art market. Outstanding among his abundant production in those years, however, are the portraits in which he felt freest and least bound by his own models, including the splendid Segismundo Moret y Quntana (P04466) from 1855, and Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches (P02878), one of his most emblematic paintings. That was the period when his most characteristic style began to mature, with a notable influence of Spanish Siglo de Oro portraiture that was to mark the rest of his career.
In the following decade, Federico de Madrazo became a leading figure on the official art scene. As Director of the Museo del Prado, he replaced his father’s rival, Antonio de Ribera, and as Director of the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, he played an important role in its school. He was also a juror for the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts, and he even held a seat as Senator of the Realm, receiving numerous awards and international accolades that bear witness to the extent of his power and his enormous fame throughout Europe.
Federico de Madrazo was one of the greatest 19th-century Spanish portrait painters. His extraordinary gift for idealizing his models without losing contact with reality, and his unsurpassed skill at capturing the textures of clothing and the settings in his portraits led to the widespread popularity of the artistic language he had developed for himself. His influence on numerous generations of Spanish painters reflects his long dedication to teaching as well as his enormous social presence and his capacity to create portraits of a quality unmatched by any of his rivals (G. Navarro, C. in: El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, p. 477).

His portrait is a photograph by M. Huerta catalogued as HF0857 at the Museo del Prado.

Artworks (118)

Manuel Damían Pérez
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1833
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba at the Battle of Cerignola
Oil on canvas, 1835
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
The Painter Carlos Luis de Ribera
Oil on canvas, 1839
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Juan Perea
Oil on canvas, 1839
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Federico Flórez y Márquez
Oil on canvas, 1842
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Sabina Seupham Spalding
Oil on canvas, 1846
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Isabel II
Oil on canvas, 1848
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Ventura de la Vega
Oil on canvas, 1849
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de
Carlos Ortiz de Taranco
Oil on panel, 1849
Madrazo y Kuntz, Federico de


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