Portrait of Juan Antonio Melendez Valdes

Francisco Goya1797

The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum
Barnard Castle, United Kingdom

The inscription is a dedication from the painter, Francisco Goya, to 'his friend' and sitter, the magistrate and poet Juan Antonio Meléndez Valdés. Goya and Meléndez belonged to the same circle of enlightened Spaniards who were interested in social and judicial reforms during the late 18th century. Goya's innovative approach to portraiture is noticeable in the sobriety and restraint with which the sitter is presented. The bold brush strokes in Meléndez's collar and shoulders and the energetic handling of the paint are characteristic of Goya's style in the late 1790s, when he was preparing his series of prints the Caprichos.
Melendéz Valdés was passionately concerned about conditions in prisons and lunatic asylums, which were the subject of so many of Goya's personal works. His admiration for French thinkers and reformers led him to co-operate with the regime of Joseph Bonaparte when he took the Spanish throne in 1808, as part of the French Empire. Melendéz Valdés thought that the French would bring about reforms essential for the good of his troubled country. When the Spanish monarchy was restored in 1814 he was accused of collaborating with the French and forced to leave Spain. He went to Montpellier in France where he died in poverty three years later.
Object number: B.M.26
Collection: PAINTINGS
Creator: Francisco Jose de (1746-1828) Goya
Production period: 18th century
Object name: Spanish School of Paintings


  • Title: Portrait of Juan Antonio Melendez Valdes
  • Creator: Francisco Jose de Goya
  • Date Created: 1797
  • Location Created: Madrid, Spain
  • Physical Dimensions: L 89, W 73, D 8 cm with frame
  • Nationality: Spanish
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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