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…

Insult to injury

The entry of Napoleon’s troops into Spain in early 1808 began a tragic period in the country’s history, known in Spain as the War of Independence, and in English as the Peninsular War (1808–14). Napoleon’s overthrowing of the Spanish Bourbon monarchy and appointment of his own brother, Joseph, as King, inspired a popular revolt in…