Still Life

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eduardo Rosales another Spanish great from the 19th century.
Born in 1836 in Madrid, he completed this painting at 28 years of age while in Rome in 1864 and entered it in the National Exhibition of Spain in the same year where it garnered a first prize medal. The scene represents  Isabel the Catholic Queen dictating her last will and testament. The Queen is shown on her death bed with King Ferdinand seated on the left and next to him stand their daughter Juana (the fututre "Mad" queen from the previous 19thC painting posts) and on the right are various members of the court.

Aside from the obvious mastery and handling, what rivets the viewer most is the way the artist has captured the various expressions of the characters involved, leaving no doubt as to the gravity of the implied consequences of the imminent demise of the Queen, and the uncertainty of the future of the kingdom. All of this is manifest especially in the King´s face as well as the Princess´, heir to her
mother´s heavy responsibilities.

As usual, as I tend to gravitate towards the initial ideas of the artist, what I consider the primordial instinct of expression, of equal interest is the charcoal with white chalk compositional study. The initial idea was to place the figure of the King on the right, next to the scribe, and leaving the figure of Juana alone on the left. The final composition shows a more balanced distribution of figures, avoiding the "redundancy" of the double-seated figures that appear in the drawing. I find particularly exquisite the standing profile figure of Juana on the left with her downturned eyes and her hands clasped in front of her...reminds me somewhat of Vermeer´s milkmaid of a little more than 200 years before.

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