The jewellery of María Dolores de Aldama, Marchioness of Montelo

Wealthy, young and beautiful, she drew the rich and powerful to her like moths to a flame. María Dolores de Aldama was a lady known for the soirees she held at her residence. ‘This young aristocrat, portrayed in three-quarter length, stands posed before the viewer wearing a magnificent black satin and velvet dress trimmed with lace and ribbons, a…

The Jewellery of widow María Antonia Gonzaga

Francisco de Goya’s portrait captures a small woman with a strong character — one can imagine her maintaining decisive control of her family’s fortunes. Her white shawl, ribbons and rose reveal a new softness and delicacy in vogue as fashions now took their lead from France. ‘For this image of the marchioness, Goya has avoided the conventional…

The Jewellery of Tomás de Iriarte

The poet, playwright and composer Tomás de Iriarte (1750–91) who appears to be around 35 in this portrait wears a hard stone cameo on his little finger — two centuries on from Clara Eugenia’s symbol of dynastic continuity this would have a different reading. People are tired now of the bizarre flourishes of the Rococo Period which…

The jewellery of Empress Margarita of Austria

‘Margarita was born on 12 July 1651, the daughter of Philip IV and Mariana of Austria. On 12 December 1666, she married Emperor Leopold of Austria and died seven years later in Vienna. The fact that the princess is wearing mourning dress in this painting helps date it between September 1665 — when her father died — and her wedding…

The jewellery of Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia

Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566–1633), Philip II’s elder daughter and one of the most important women in the Spanish dynasty can be seen here dressed in her stiff bodice dripping with jewels from her mother and her stepmother. She wears a formal dress made of white silk, heavily embroidered with gold thread; the high collar with its…