This is one of Goya's liveliest male portraits. The sitter's relaxed stance reflects
the painter's intimate response to a friend, a young liberal whose disheveled hair
and garb in the mode of revolutionary France speaks not only of his affinity for
contemporary French fashion, but also of his sympathy for current French politics.
Goya's life spanned a period of political upheaval and military turmoil. In the
early years of the nineteenth century, before he witnessed the horror of the Peninsular
wars, Goya welcomed the idea of a Napoleonic invasion, believing the ideals of the
French revolution to be the only antidote to the abuses of the Spanish monarchy.
Bartolomé Sureda was one of a group of like-minded liberal intellectuals.
A clever young industrialist, Sureda studied cotton spinning in England in order
to introduce the technique into Spain. Later he went to France to learn the secrets
of Sèvres porcelain manufacture and in 1802 became director of the Spanish royal
porcelain factory at Buen Retiro. During the French invasion of Spain, Napoleon
considered him so important to Spanish industry that he detained him in France.
Since this portrait predates many of the sitter's illustrious achievements, Goya
presented him, not as a brilliant industrialist, but simply as an urbane young man.