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Louis Michel van Loo, La familia de Felipe V

Louis XIV, King of France

A new display at the Museum that forms part of its Collection Re-hang Project as established in the Prado’s Action Plan for 2009-2012, was presented today in the form of a gallery devoted to The Early Bourbons. This is a thematic gallery devoted to 18th-century French portraits of the early Bourbons and focuses around the great portrait of The Family of Philip V by Louis Michel van Loo. This is one of the most ambitious and grandiloquent compositions of the century in its depiction of a royal dynasty and is shown to the public for the first time in six years.

The ascent of a French prince to the Spanish throne at the start of the 18th century resulted in a change of aesthetic. The new trend in painting moved away from the earlier intimate, plain and precise style that emphasised psychological insight and a sensation of reality. Instead, it opted for a display of courtly splendour in which symbols of power, dress and pose were the principal elements. The great portraitists of the day created spectacular and splendid images that make full use of silks and brocades and are set against artificial backdrops of palace architecture and heavy swathes of curtains.

The new monarchy required a portraitist capable of depicting the majesty and power of the new sovereign, Philip V (1700-1746), and the symbolic, official nature of his family, of which three sons would be future kings of Spain, namely Louis I, Ferdinand VI, and Charles III. As a result, French artists arrived in Spain, including Michel-Ange Houasse, Jean Ranc and Louis Michel van Loo, employed by the Madrid court in the service of the artistic and political interests of the Spanish Bourbons.

Matrimonial alliances, dynastic relations and an interest in collecting paintings also account for the presence of many works by French artists in the Spanish royal collections. Notable among them are portraits of historical figures depicted by Rigaud, Gobert, Santerre, Largillière and Silvestre, while a particularly striking example is the magnificent Portrait of Louis XVI by Callet.

Works on display in this gallery:

  • Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet;
  • María Ana Victoria de Borbón by Nicolás de Largillière;
  • The Family of Philip V by Louis Michel van Loo;
  • Philip V on Horseback by Jean Ranc;
  • Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud;
  • María Amalia de Sajonia, Queen of Spain by Louis Silvestre;
  • and Louis I, Prince of Asturias by Michel-Ange Houasse.
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