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Effigies amicorum. Portraits of Artists by Federico de Madrazo

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 9/22/2015 - 3/27/2016

Federico de Madrazo (Rome, 1815 – Madrid, 1894) was the Spanish painter who produced the largest number of portraits of artists. These works – of considerable interest, as befits the most significant specialist of his generation – attest to his great professional merit and status. They are not merely heads but long bust-length portraits or, in the case of the drawings and lithographs, half-length.

He generously gave the oil portraits to the sitters. They were friends, such as Carlos Luis de Ribera, whom he painted in Paris in one of his earliest masterpieces, Benito Soriano Murillo, a close collaborator as deputy director of the Prado, and Perugino Sensi, a lithographer who had worked at the Royal Lithographic Establishment founded by Madrazo’s father; colleagues, such as Carlos de Haes and Cosme Algarra; and prominent pupils, such as Eduardo Rosales and Federico’s own son Raimundo.

The drawn portraits are part of a large group that are similar in size, technique and style. Keenly aware of their artistic and also documentary interest, the artist kept and bequeathed them in their entirety to the Prado. The treatment of these works, most of which were executed in Paris, Rome and Madrid between 1839 and the early years of the following decade, attests to the intention to form a sort of iconographic album of artist and writer friends in the tradition established by German artists of the sixteenth century. The most important group was produced in Rome, where portraiture was a common practice among fellow pupils and friends. He coincided there with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whom he had portrayed years earlier and whose influence is notable in a few likenesses such as those of Ponzano and Zanetti.

The lithographed portraits denote an outstanding mastery of this new technique encouraged by his father José, of whom Federico made a portrait to illustrate the biographical sketch published in 1835 by El Artista, the most important Spanish Romantic review. The other great Spanish painter of the time, Vicente López, was also lithographed by Federico for the same publication, even though he differed greatly from Federico’s father in his artistic orientation. Both likenesses bear witness to Federico’s devotion to art through these careful images of its most significant figures, disseminated in the form of prints.

Javier Barón, Chief Curator of the Department of the 19th Century Painting, Museo Nacional del Prado.


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